Russian Judge Upholds American Journalist Evan Gershkovich’s Detention

April 18, 2023

A Russian judge on Tuesday upheld espionage charges against U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, keeping him behind bars.

Gershkovich, who reports for the Wall Street Journal, was arrested on March 29. Russia’s FSB security services said he “was collecting classified information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.”

Despite the Russian Foreign Ministry and the FSB acknowledging that Gershkovich is an accredited journalist in Russia, the 31-year-old American was charged with espionage, which carries a potential prison sentence in Russia of up to 20 years. 

Gershkovich and the U.S. government deny the allegations against him. 

He had appealed his detention, but the Tuesday ruling in Moscow City Court says Gershkovich will stay jailed at least until the end of May.

On April 11, the State Department officially designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained.” Doing so shifts supervision of that person’s case to a specialized State Department section, called the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. That department is focused on negotiating for the release of captives.

The Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs is currently Roger Carstens, who last week said, “The most important thing is we know Evan’s not a spy. He never was a spy. He’s never worked for the U.S. government. He’s a journalist who works for The Wall Street Journal. And as the President and [Secretary of State Antony Blinken] said, ‘Journalism’s not a crime.'”

While Gershkovich’s arrest comes at a low-point for U.S.-Russia diplomacy amid the Ukraine war, Carstens said the U.S. government has been able to “find ways to bring Americans home” from detention abroad even if the U.S. does not have strong relations with the imprisoning country.

In December the State Department succeeded in securing the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner after she’d been held for months in a Russian prison. However, along with Gershkovich, the Administration is still attempting to negotiate the freedom of former Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018 and is serving 16 years in a Russian penal colony on what his family says are fabricated charges of spying.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy stood by Gershkovich during his Tuesday his hearing.

“He feels well and is holding up. We reiterate our call for Evan’s immediate release,” she said in a statement.

PHOTO: LinkedIn

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