On Tuesday, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s pretrial detention was upheld by a Russian judge, as he made his first public appearance since being arrested on espionage charges nearly three weeks ago. Gershkovich, who has refuted the charges, attended the hearing at Moscow City Court, where the judge ruled to keep him in custody until May 29.
Espionage Charges Amid Press Freedom Crackdown
Russia’s Federal Security Service has accused Gershkovich of gathering “information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprise within Russia’s military-industrial complex,” as reported by state media outlet Tass. Both the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have disputed these charges, with the U.S. State Department designating Gershkovich as being “wrongfully detained” by Russian authorities last week.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.” President Biden has also referred to the arrest as “totally illegal.”
International Reactions and Calls for Release
U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Lynne Tracy and Gershkovich’s lawyers, Tatyana Nozhkina and Maria Korchagina, were present in the courtroom during the hearing. Yesterday, Tracy visited Gershkovich at Lefortovo prison, marking the first time Russian authorities granted U.S. officials access to him since his arrest.
Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and Emma Tucker, editor-in-chief of the Journal, have also demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release, stating that the espionage charges against him are false.
The Biden administration has reportedly been engaging with Russia through every available channel to secure the release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine detained in Russia for four years. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre expressed deep concern about Russia’s decision to continue wrongfully detaining Gershkovich after a “sham judicial proceeding.”
If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison. This case marks the first time an American journalist has been arrested in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War.