A US journalist working in Russia has been arrested and charged with espionage, which entails a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison.
Evan Gershkovich, a respected correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, was allegedly gathering classified information on the activities of a Russian military industrial complex enterprise, according to the FSB.
The FSB asserted that Gershkovich was “acting on instructions from the American side”. By arresting a prominent journalist who could be used as leverage in a potential prisoner exchange, however, many observers accused Moscow of engaging in “hostage taking.”
Gershkovich was arrested during a reporting journey to the Urals city of Ekaterinburg on Wednesday. On Thursday, he appeared at the Lefortovo courthouse in Moscow for a brief hearing where the charges were introduced officially. Local media reported that the court ordered him to be detained in pre-trial detention until at least May 29.
“Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family,” the journalist’s employer said in a statement.
Friends and coworkers of Gershkovich deemed the allegations absurd, characterizing him as a professional and the accusations against him as “ridiculous”
Gershkovich, 31 years old, has lived in Moscow for six years, speaks Russian fluently, and is a correspondent accredited by the Russian foreign ministry. Gershkovich had previously worked in Russia for the Moscow Times and Agence France-Presse before joining the Wall Street Journal.
Prior to his arrest, Gershkovich was reportedly working on a story about Wagner, the ostensibly private military organization led by businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin that has conducted the majority of combat in Ukraine.