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Updated Mar 30, 2023, 12:41pm EDT
Europe

Russia detains Wall Street Journal reporter for ‘espionage’

A portrait of Evan Gershkovich from his website.
Evan Gershkovich
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The News

A Moscow court said Thursday that a Wall Street Journal reporter detained on espionage charges would be held for two months.

Evan Gershkovich is the first U.S. journalist to be arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said it had detained Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen who is a reporter at the Journal’s Moscow bureau, in the eastern Russian city of Yaketerinburg.

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The Journal said it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB” and “seeks the immediate release of our trusted and unbiased reporter.”

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Know More

Gershkovich has worked with The Wall Street Journal since 2022, and previously was employed by The New York Times, AFP, and The Moscow Times according to his personal website.

In a statement, the FSB claimed Gershkovich was “acting on the instructions of the American side,” and “collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

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The Moscow court order, AFP reported later Thursday, said that Gershkovich has been placed in detention “for a period of one month 29 days, that is until May 29, 2023.”

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Quoteworthy

On Twitter, Financial Times Moscow correspondent Max Seddon wrote that he was “shocked” by the charges against Gershkovich. “Evan is accredited by Russia’s MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] and was simply doing his job. Journalism is not a crime,” he said.

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The View From the Kremlin

The Russian government said that Gershkovich was using his media visa as cover for espionage, a claim the Journal rejects.

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In a statement on Telegram, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova wrote that “what an employee of the American edition of The Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg has nothing to do with journalism,” claiming without evidence that it was common for spies to enter the country on journalist visas.

Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesperson, claimed Gershkovich was caught “red-handed,” and warned the U.S. against retaliating.

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The View From Washington

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that the administration was “deeply concerned” by Gershkovich’s detention and that the State Department was in touch with the Russian government to secure consular access to the journalist.

“The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said in a statement. “We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms. We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression of journalists and freedom of the press.”

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also denounced Moscow’s efforts to punish the media.

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Notable

  • The Financial Times recently argued that life in modern Russia looks a lot like life behind the Iron Curtain. Residents are reporting each other to the authorities with growing frequency, often over differing views about Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
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