- Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges, Russia’s Federal Security Service said on Thursday.
- The Russian security agency accused Gershkovich of spying in the interest of the U.S. and trying to obtain classified information.
- The Journal said it “vehemently denies the allegations.”
Russia’s top security agency has arrested a Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich, on espionage charges.
On Thursday, the Federal Security Service said Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, was detained in Yekaterinburg. The FSB accused the American journalist of spying in the interest of the U.S. government and trying to obtain classified information.
The agency alleged that Gershkovich “was acting on the U.S. orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
In a statement, the Wall Street Journal said it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB” – adding that the newspaper “seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”
“We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family,” the Journal said.
Here’s what you need to know.
According to his biography on the Wall Street Journal website, Gershkovich is a reporter who covers Russia, Ukraine and former nations of the Soviet Union.
Gershkovich is based in the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau. The FSB noted he had accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist in the country. He speaks fluent Russian.
According to his bio, Gershkovich previously worked as a reporter for Agence France-Presse and the Moscow Times. He was also a news assistant at the New York Times.
The FSB didn’t specify when exactly Gershkovich was arrested.
His last report from Moscow, which focused on the slowdown of Russia’s economy amid Western sanctions imposed following the invasion of Ukraine last year, was published on Tuesday.
According to the official Telegram channel after a Thursday hearing, a Moscow court ruled to keep Gershkovich behind bars pending the investigation.
If convicted of espionage, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.
Past investigations into espionage cases have taken one year to 18 months, attorneys told The Associated Press. Gershokovich may be held with little contact to the outside world during this time.
The FSB said that Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, a city that sits east of the the Ural Mountains in central Russia.
According to the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Russia, Yekaterinburg is one of the country’s largest cities, with a population of about 1.5 million people.
The arrest of Gershkovich marks the first time an American reporter has been arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War.
The last arrest of this kind was seen in September 1986, when U.S. News and World Report correspondent Nicholas Daniloff was arrested by the KGB. Twenty days later, the Moscow-based journalist was released without charges – in a swap for an employee of the Soviet Union’s United Nations mission, who had been arrested by the FBI.
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Following Gershkovich’s arrest, many journalists expressed outrage about the news – calling for the release of the Wall Street Journal reporter.
“Gershkovich’s arrest underscores the dangers of being journalist in Russia,” the Society of Professional Journalists wrote on Twitter Thursday, adding calls for his immediate release.
Max Seddon, Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times, said he was “shocked by the horrifying news of Russia’s absurd espionage charges against (Gershkovich), an excellent reporter and friend.”
“Evan is accredited by Russia’s MFA and was simply doing his job. Journalism is not a crime. Russia should release him at once,” Seddon wrote on Twitter.
Gershkovich’s arrest arrives amid high tensions between the West and Russia over the war in Ukraine. The Kremlin has intensified its crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups.
“It looks like a retaliation measure of Russia against the United States, so we are very alarmed because it is probably a way to intimidate all Western journalists that are trying to investigate aspects of the war on the ground in Russia,” Jeanne Cavelier, head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, told The Associated Press.
“The Western powers should immediately ask for clarifications on the charges, because as far as we know he was just doing his job as a journalist.”
Cavelier added that Gershkovich is the first foreign journalist to be arrested in Russia since the start of its war in Ukraine.
Contributing: The Associated Press.