A Russian court Thursday ordered the two-month detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage.
Russian security forces arrested Gershkovich in Yekaterinburg, Russia on Thursday morning on suspicions that the Moscow-based reporter was spying on Russia for the US. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) told state-afilliated news source TASS that they arrested Gershkovich for “acting at the behest” of the US to collect “information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprise within Russia’s military-industrial complex.” The Wall Street Journal denies all allegations leveled against Gershkovich.
Gershkovich appeared before the Lefortovsky District Court in Moscow, Russia on Thursday. It is believed that Gershkovich pled not guilty to espionage charges under Article 276 of the Russian criminal code, though the exact details of the case are sealed. Russia has classified Gershkovich’s case as top secret, according to TASS, because of the “relevant information contained in the case.” The court ordered Gershkovich be detained until May 29.
Backlash to Gershkovich’s arrest began shortly after news of the arrest broke. The Wall Street Journal stated, “[We] vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.” The Committee to Protect Journalists called for the immediate and unconditional release of Gershkovich, and Human Rights Watch called the charges against Gershkovich “shocking” and “bogus on their face.”
The White House said the Biden administration is “deeply concerned” by Gershkovich’s arrest. In a statement, the White House said, “The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms.” The US is currently in talks with Russia to “secure consular access” to Gershkovich.
Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first time Russian authorities have brought espionage charges against a US journalist since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.