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Russian court upholds detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich | Russia-Ukraine war news

The Wall Street Journal reporter is the first American reporter to be detained in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War.

A Moscow court has upheld the detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on espionage charges as part of the Kremlin’s sweeping crackdown on dissent.

A Wall Street Journal reporter who covered the Ukraine war in Russia is the first American reporter to be detained in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War. Gershkovic and the U.S. government vehemently deny the allegations.

Dozens of reporters packed the courtroom Tuesday to get a glimpse of Gershkovic. Gershkovic stood inside a glass enclosure appealing his detention, smiling and looking calm.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynn Tracy speaks to the media outside a courthouse after a hearing to consider charges against Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gersh accused of espionage, April 18, 2023. Kovic's detention was appealed.
US ambassador to Russia Lynn Tracy spoke to the media outside the courtroom after Gershkovich’s hearing, a day after visiting him in prison and saying he was “in good shape and still going strong” [Evgenia Novozhenina/Reuters]

“He was competitive,” one of his lawyers, Maria Korchagina, said after the hearing. “He’s working out and he knows people are rooting for him.”

The security service of the Russian Federal Security Service arrested Gershkovich in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg on March 29, accusing him of trying to obtain classified information about Russian arms factories.

“Evan is a free press activist who had been working as a news reporter prior to his arrest,” the Journal said in a statement. “Any suggestion beyond that is false.”

Gershkovic could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Russian lawyers have said that investigations into espionage cases have taken a year to 18 months in the past, during which time suspects may have had little contact with the outside world.

Gershkovich has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which dates back to the tsarist era and has been a symbol of repression since Soviet times.

Last week, the United States officially announced that Gershkovic was “wrongly detained.” US President Joe Biden has called his imprisonment “completely illegal”.

More than three dozen news organizations signed a letter to Russia’s ambassador to the United States condemning “baseless espionage allegations”.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia visited Gershkovich on Monday and said he was “in good shape and still going strong.”

His arrest comes amid tensions between the West and Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, as the Kremlin ramps up its crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups.

Last month, a Russian court convicted a single father of two years in prison for postings on social media critical of the war. His 13-year-old daughter was sent to a “rehab center” for minors.

A Russian court on Monday found opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza guilty of treason for publicly condemning the war and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

Another U.S. citizen, Michigan corporate security chief Paul Whelan, has been imprisoned by Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government say are baseless.

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