Evan Gershkovich’s year-long detention in Russia extended three months

US ambassador said Jewish journalist Evan Gershkovich is being used as a political “pawn” by the Kremlin as he remains in custody on suspicion of espionage


US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, looks out from inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20, 2024. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained last March on spying charges during a reporting trip to the Urals. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP) (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain in “pre-trial detention” in Russia at least another three months, according to a Moscow court ruling earlier today.

The 32-year-old reporter was arrested by Russian authorities in March 2023 on suspicion of espionage while on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg and has been awaiting trial ever since. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted though no date has been set for his trial, and US Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy believes Gershkovich is being used as a “pawn” by the Kremlin.

“This verdict to further prolong Evan’s detention feels particularly painful, as this week marks one year since Evan was arrested and wrongfully detained in Yekaterinburg simply for doing his job as a journalist,” Tracy said after the ruling.

Both the US government and WSJ have denied that Gershkovich is a spy.

Gershkovich, born in New York to Russian-Jewish parents, was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) over claims that he had been trying to obtain military intelligence while visiting the country last year.

“The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue,” Tracy said after the hearing on Tuesday. “They are not a different interpretation of circumstances, they are fiction.

“As we cross the one-year mark, the Russian government has yet to present any evidence to substantiate its accusations, no justification for Evan’s continued detention, and no explanation as to why Evan doing his job as a journalist constituted a crime.”

US officials speculate that Gershkovich’s continued detention is part of the Kremlin’s political strategy to accrue arrested US citizens to later exchange for Russian prisoners detained in the US.

During her statement after the hearing on Tuesday, Tracy compared Gershkovich’s case to that of ex-marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested by the FSB during a visit to Moscow in 2018 and charged with espionage in 2020. He is currently carrying out a 16-year prison sentence. Washington has dubbed both Gershkovich and Whelan “wrongfully detained.” Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be charged with espionage by Russia since the Cold War.

“Evan’s case is not about evidence, due process, or rule of law,” said Tracy. “It is about using American citizens as pawns to achieve political ends, as the Kremlin is doing in the case of Paul Whelan.”

Last month Vladimir Putin suggested that Russia would be willing to exchange Gershkovich for Vadim Krasikov, a high-ranking FSB colonel serving life in Germany for the murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin in 2019, though the potential swap was not mentioned during the hearing on Tuesday.

Gershkovich was kept inside a glass box within the courtroom, according to photos published by the Moscow court service, and listened as the judge extended his pre-trial detention at the Lefortovo prison until 30 June.

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