A Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested and detained in Russia on espionage charges.
Evan Gershkovich, a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday.
He was then charged by the Lefortovo Court of Moscow on March 30 according to Russian state media agency TASS. He pleaded not guilty to the Moscow court, located about 300 miles west of the city he was arrested in.
Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first time an American journalist has been accused of spying and detained in Russia since the Cold War.
The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter,’ the Wall Street Journal stated. ‘We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.’
Gershkovich worked as a Russia and Ukraine correspondent, and spent the last year reporting on Russia’s wartime economy.
According to the Moscow Times, an English-language newspaper based in Russia, Gershkovich was reporting a story about the Wagner Group, the now-infamous mercenary company deployed in Ukraine.
He previously covered the region for Agence France-Presse and the New York Times.
According to the FSB, Gershkovich was ‘acting on instructions from the American side to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.’
The Kremlin has released few details about any evidence against the reporter, but spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said he was ‘caught red-handed.’
Gershkovich was fully accredited with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but the ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused the reporter of using this visa to ‘cover up activities’ other than journalism.
‘What an employee of the American edition of The Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg has nothing to do with journalism,’ Zakharova wrote in a statement posted on the app Telegram.
Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Russian espionage trials are usually conducted in secret.
Gershkovich is the most recent American to be accused of spying in Russia. Another American, former US marine and security executive Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia after he was found guilty by a Russian court on espionage charges in 2018.
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