When she was told where her son was being held, Ella Milman immediately recognized the name. Like many former residents of the Soviet Union, she knew about the Moscow prison’s chilling notoriety.
“All those dissidents going into Lefortovo — the name horrifies you,” she said in an interview with ABC’s “Nightline” that aired early on Wednesday.
Ms. Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, the parents of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has been jailed in Russia since March, said in the interview that President Biden had personally promised to do “whatever it takes” to get their son home.
Mr. Gershkovich, 31, was detained during a reporting trip and charged with espionage. Both the U.S. government and The Journal have categorically denied the accusations and the United States considers him “wrongfully detained.”
The Biden administration confirmed last week that it was in talks with Russia about a potential prisoner swap that would include the reporter, but said that the discussions had not “produced a clear pathway to a resolution.”
Ms. Milman said Mr. Biden spoke to them as a fellow parent and said he understood their pain. After assurances from the president and his secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, she said she felt “very very optimistic that it’s going in the right direction.”
Mr. Gershkovich’s parents have exchanged letters with their son and have twice flown to Moscow to attend his court hearings, speaking to him through a glass barrier at one of them. He has been in strong spirits during his detention, his parents said, joking with them and even teasing his mother that the breakfast at the Lefortovo prison reminded him of her cooking.
In the interview, Mikhail Gershkovich also described how committed his son was to reporting on Russia.
“He considered it both a privilege and responsibility — that he was accredited, and that he was a foreign journalist, not a Russian. He was one of few people who could report honestly what he saw,” he said.
Ms. Milman said she had worried about her son, especially when he published articles about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. She said she wanted to tell the Russian authorities that journalism is not a crime.
Once she gets her son back, she will hold him close, Ms. Milman said in the interview.
“I just wouldn’t let him out, anywhere,” she said. “For several days at least.”