Russia's FSB arrests US reporter for 'espionage'

Sunday, April 2, 2023

FSB forces patrolling Moscow Domodedovo Airport on January 24, 2011 after a suicide bombing.
Image: RIA Novosti.

On Thursday, a district court in Moscow, Russia ordered US journalist for The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) Evan Gershkovich be held until May 29 pending trial for espionage.

Earlier, he was arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Yekaterinburg, Ural Federal District on charges punishable by up to twenty years imprisonment.

This is the first time a US journalist has been detained for spying since the Cold War, which ended with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. A statement from WSJ said the newspaper "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."

We are in very dangerous territory with [Putin]. This is all about leverage and so now we have a human life in the balance.

—Jared Moskowitz

The FSB acknowledged Gershkovich had valid accreditation, but was "trying to obtain secret information [about] the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex." Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova said he was involved with "activities that have nothing to do with journalism." Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov added, "It is not about a suspicion, it is about the fact that he was caught red-handed."

Gershkovich, who speaks fluent Russian, has reported on the former Soviet Union his entire career, which included for The Moscow Times, Agence France-Presse and The New York Times.

US Representatives Adam Schiff and Jared Moskowitz called his detainment a 'kidnapping', the latter telling CNN, "we are in very dangerous territory with [Russian President Vladimir Putin]. This is all about leverage and so now we have a human life in the balance."

In a tweet, the top foreign affairs representative of the European Union Josep Borrell said: "Journalists must be allowed to exercise their profession freely and deserve protection. The Russian authorities demonstrate yet again their systematic disregard for media freedom."

A joint statement by Eileen O’Reilly and Gil Klein of the US National Press Club said: "Evan Gershkovich is a journalist. He should be released immediately and unharmed and allowed to return to his important work."