Russia’s Federal Security Service accused Gershkovich of attempting to collect a state secret on the Russian military-industrial complex.
The Wall Street Journal reporter was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage, with Russia alleging he worked on behalf of the U.S. government.
At a Thursday court hearing, Gershkovich was ordered to be held until May 29.
The Journal has denied the allegations against Gershkovich and has called for his immediate release. Press freedom organizations swiftly echoed calls to free the journalist.
Gulnoza Said, the Europe and Central Asia program coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said the incident was “all about Russia’s attempt to control reporting.”
“Russia managed to eliminate free press in the last 12 months or so,” she told The Hill. “And now it could be the next stage to deal with foreign media.”
The U.S. has condemned his arrest, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying he was “deeply concerned.”
“In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices,” Blinken said in a statement.
The White House said it’s unclear if a larger pattern of Russia detaining foreign journalists will emerge, but noted it was not unusual for Moscow to arrest U.S. citizens.
The Biden administration is in touch with Gershkovich’s family and the Journal as it works on the case.
Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been detained since 2018 on espionage charges. WNBA star Brittney Griner was arrested last year for carrying cannabis cartridges before she was released in a prisoner exchange in December.
Gershkovich has worked in Russia since 2017 and joined the Journal in January 2022. He has covered the impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s economy and Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow this month.
Russia passed a restrictive law last year prohibiting the publication of material that discredits the military, and about 170 people have been detained under the law or similar justifications, including journalists, per the International Press Institute.
Maria Zakharova, director of the press department for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in a Telegram post that Gershkovich’s arrest “has nothing to do with journalism,” accusing him again of acting as a covert spy.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to use Americans as leverage during the war in Ukraine.
“He failed to successfully use Britney Griner to degrade our support for Ukraine and he will fail again now,” Quigley said.
Stay tuned for more foreign policy news at TheHill.com.