(Washington) Joe Biden once again slammed the arrest in Russia of an American journalist on Tuesday for “espionage”, calling it “totally illegal”.

“We have made it very clear that what is happening is totally illegal,” the US president said in a brief exchange with reporters before flying to Northern Ireland.

The White House later reported that Joe Biden spoke by phone from the Air Force One presidential plane with relatives of Evan Gershkovich.

The president told them he was “focused on securing the release of Evan,” along with that of another U.S. national detained in Russia, Paul Whelan, the spokeswoman for the agency told reporters. the White House Karine Jean-Pierre.

The arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was announced on March 30 by Russian security services.

The State Department officially determined on Monday that Mr. Gershkovich was “arbitrarily detained by Russia”, according to the head of the American diplomacy Antony Blinken, which makes it possible to entrust the file to the special envoy for the hostages, Roger Carstens, and to allocate specific funds to him.

This decision by Washington “changes the dynamic” around the situation, Joe Biden said on Tuesday.

Evan Gershkovich, a veteran journalist, and his newspaper “categorically” denied the “espionage” charges.

Russian authorities continue to deny consular access to US officials, according to the White House.

Asked about the reason for the delay, John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council (a body attached to the White House), said, “That’s a question for the Russian authorities.”

“But it’s not for lack of trying, I can assure you. The State Department has been trying to get consular access for (Evan Gershkovich) from the time we learned he was being held,” he said.