- The arrest comes amid acute tensions between Moscow and Washington over fighting in Ukraine.
- Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.
- He covers events in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR as a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of the Wall Street Journal.
Russia’s top security agency has arrested an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal on charges of espionage. For the first time since the Cold War, an American correspondent was behind bars on charges of espionage.
Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, allegedly while trying to obtain classified information, the Federal Security Service said Thursday.
The arrest came amid acute tensions between Moscow and Washington over .
Who is Evan Hershkovich?
Mr. Gershkovich is a 31-year-old American who has covered Russia for various publications for six years.
He covers events in Russia, Ukraine and other countries of the former USSR as a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of the Wall Street Journal, where he has been working for a little over a year.
Mr. Gershkovich’s latest report from Moscow, published earlier this week, focused on the slowdown in the Russian economy amid Western sanctions. .
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was escorted to a bus in Moscow by officers. Source: AP / Alexander Zemlyanichenko
He became the first American reporter to be arrested on charges of espionage in Russia since September 1986, when the Moscow correspondent for US News and World Report, Nikolai Danilov, was arrested by the KGB.
Mr. Daniloff was released without charge after 20 days in exchange for a member of the Soviet Union’s mission to the United Nations, who was arrested by the FBI.
The FSB, which is the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, alleged that Mr. Gershkovich “acted on US orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex, which constitutes a state secret.” “.
What is Evan Gershkovich accused of?
The agency did not say when the arrest took place. Mr. Gershkovich was taken to Moscow, where the court ruled in closed session to keep him in pre-trial detention until 29 May.
He told the court he was innocent but could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of espionage.
Daniil Berman, a lawyer representing the reporter, was not allowed into the courtroom and was not allowed to review the charges, he told reporters outside.
He believed Gershkovich would be taken to Lefortovo, Moscow’s central 19th-century prison notorious in the Soviet era for holding political prisoners.
The Russian government said it would grant the US consulate access to Gershkovich “in due course.”
The FSB noted that he had Russian Foreign Ministry accreditation to work as a journalist, but ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Gershkovich used his journalistic powers to cover up “activities that had nothing to do with journalism.”
Mr. Hershkovich’s arrest follows a December trade in which the WNBA star behind bars in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said it was too early to talk about any possible prisoner swap with the US, saying such deals usually only happen after a prisoner is convicted.
How did the US react to his arrest?
The Wall Street Journal said it was deeply concerned for Mr. Hershkowitz’s safety, denied the allegations and demanded the immediate release of the “trusted and dedicated reporter.”
The White House said there was no reason to believe the allegations were accurate.
“These accusations of espionage are ridiculous. The persecution of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at a briefing.
The US State Department said it was “absolutely in solidarity” with Gershkovich.
Its travel guide advises US citizens not to travel to Russia because of the risk of arbitrary arrest, and those who live there should leave the country immediately.
The arrest was “a frontal attack on all foreign correspondents who are still working in Russia. And this means that the FSB has gone off the leash,” wrote Andrey Soldatov, a Russian journalist outside the country who specializes in the special services.