Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter accused of espionage
Russia has detained a Wall Street Journal reporter on charges of espionage, which the newspaper has denied.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, said on Thursday that Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg, located in the Ural Mountains, where he was allegedly trying to gain access to classified information.
The agency claimed Gershkovich was acting on orders from the United States to “collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as part of the Journal’s Moscow bureau.
The Journal rejected the allegations that Gershkovich was conducting espionage and called for his release in a statement following his arrest.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the Journal said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage. Russia’s justice system, which has more than a 99 percent conviction rate and does not allow for fair trials, has been internationally criticized.
The Russian state-run news agency TASS reported that Gershkovich pleaded not guilty on the charges he is facing. A law enforcement source told the outlet that the case is classified as “top secret” because of the information relating to the case.
The state-run agency RIA reported that Gershkovich was ordered to be detained until at least May 29.
Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. correspondent was detained on allegations of spying, and he is the first U.S. reporter to be arrested in Russia on espionage charges since 1986.
The Russian Foreign Ministry alleged that Gershkovich used his accreditation as a journalist to engage in activities “that have nothing to do with journalism.”
Gershkovich most recently reported on the effects of Western sanctions on the Russian economy following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
NBC News reported that a senior Biden administration official said U.S. officials have been in contact with the Journal about Gershkovich’s arrest.
The U.S. engaged with Russia for months to free WNBA star Britney Griner, who was detained on drug charges that the U.S. said were trumped up just ahead of the start of the invasion in February 2022. The two countries eventually agreed to a prisoner swap in December in which Griner was released after almost 10 months in jail for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The U.S. has not been successful in securing the release of Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive and former U.S. Marine who was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges. Whelan’s family and the U.S. government have rejected the charges, and the Biden administration has said it is trying to secure his release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report, which was updated at 9:53 a.m.
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