Russian court denies another appeal from Evan Gershkovich

December 14, 2023

The Lefortovo District Court in Moscow on Thursday rejected the latest appeal from wrongfully detained U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich. 

The court’s rejection comes less than a month after it extended Gershkovich’s detention by another two months, through January 30.

The 32-year-old reporter for the Wall Street Journal was arrested in March. Russia’s FSB security services claimed that Gershkovich “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 American has been charged with espionage, which carries a potential prison sentence in Russia of up to 20 years. 

Gershkovich and the Journal deny the allegations against him.  

In a statement responding to the Moscow court’s latest action, the Journal wrote, “While we expected this outcome, it’s important that we appeal these rulings to call out the absurd nature of the charge.”

In April the U.S. State Department designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” which 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.

Also on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’s hoping to “find a solution” with the U.S. on releasing Gershkovich and another wrongfully detained American, Paul Whelan.

During his traditional year-end press conference, Putin was asked about a proposal from the U.S. State Department that Russia rejected earlier this month. 

“We have contacts on this matter with our American partners, there’s a dialogue on this issue. It’s not easy, I won’t go into details right now. But in general, it seems to me that we’re speaking a language each of us understands,” Putin said.

Adding that he hopes to find a solution, Putin stressed, “But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make a decision that will satisfy the Russian side as well.”

Efforts were also rejected by Russia last December when the Biden Administration tried to broker Whelan’s release alongside that of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who had been wrongfully detained for possessing vape canisters that contained 0.702 grams of  cannabis oil. Russia refused to release both Americans in exchange for that of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said earlier this month that Moscow’s rejecting the United States’ latest proposal “will not deter us from continuing to do everything we can to try and bring both of them home.”

Gershkovich is the first U.S. reporter to be charged with espionage since the Cold War; in 1986 Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s precursor to the FSB.

PHOTO: Evan Gershkovich, per LinkedIn

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