Russia Detains US Journalist on Suspicion of Espionage

Опубликовано: 31 Март 2023

FSB Headquarters MoscowThe building of the Federal Security Service in Moscow. (Photo: Фотобанк Moscow-Live, Flickr, License)

Russia’s main security agency said Thursday it detained a reporter for The Wall Street Journal on suspicion of espionage in the interests of the U.S. government. It’s the first time since the Cold War a U.S journalist has been taken into custody under allegations of espionage in Russia.

The White House condemned the detention of Evan Gershkovich “in the strongest terms” and said the “targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable.”

Gershkovich is said to have acted “on behalf of the American side, collected information that constitutes a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

However, The Wall Street Journal said it vehemently denies the allegations, and seeks the immediate release of its “trusted and dedicated reporter.” The paper added that it stands in solidarity with Gershkovich and his family.

The reporter was detained in Yekaterinburg, central-western Russia, while allegedly attempting to obtain secret government information. The incident occurred amid rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.

The Russian Federal Security Bureau also said it has started a criminal investigation against Gershkovich for espionage. If convicted, the journalist could face up to 20 years in prison.

“What an employee of the American publication The Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg has nothing to do with journalism,” said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Telegram.

Gershkovich, 31, has lived in Russia for about six years and works in the newspaper’s Moscow bureau. He is an accredited journalist with the Russian Foreign Ministry. Earlier, Gershkovich worked for Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, and The New York Times.

In his most recent work published earlier this week, he explained how the Russian economy is slowing down amid Western sanctions that were imposed when Russian troops entered Ukraine last year.

Russia has passed several new laws that censor its media and restrict free speech, making reporting in the country much more difficult. Many domestic news outlets have ceased operations or left the country and foreign media significantly restricted reporting inside Russia and withdrew staff.