A senior Russian official has announced that a prisoner exchange for American journalist Evan Gershkovich, currently facing espionage charges in Russia, can be considered after a verdict from the Russian court system.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in a statement that prisoner exchange negotiations related to the 31-year-old Wall Street Journal correspondent would take place via an already established channel used by Moscow and Washington to hold talks on similar matters in the past.

In a Journal report  Friday, Ryabkov indicated the possibility of a prisoner exchange in his interview with the TASS state news agency. Yet, this exchange would take place after the espionage charge against Gershkovich has been decided by Russian courts. 

The Russian diplomat stressed a point, saying that “the issue of exchanging anyone can be considered after the court issues its verdict specifically on a particular charge.”

Ryabkov remarked to the Russian news agency that any potential talks concerning Gershkovich’s case and former U.S. Marine  Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage charges, would use an existing diplomatic channel previously used for similar exchanges between Moscow and Washington.

We have a special channel for this, the special services are engaged in this, and they will continue to deal with this issue,” said Ryabkov, as reported by TASS. 

The Russian official noted that there would be no need for third-party involvement and that special services are already engaged with this issue – potentially signaling an imminent resolution to what is likely to be another drawn-out legal process within the country which can take over a year in some cases.

WSJ reported the Russian official’s statements on the prisoner swap issue for Gershkovich on the condition of the finality of a verdict on the case. It also quelled hopes for their correspondent’s short-lived detention in a Russian jail.