US journalist arrested in Russia for ‘espionage’

Evan Gershkovich
A picture taken on July 24, 2021 shows journalist Evan Gershkovich. - A US reporter for The Wall Street Journal newspaper has been detained in Russia for espionage, Russian news agencies reported Thursday, citing the FSB security services. "The FSB halted the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich... a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, accredited with the Russian foreign ministry," the FSB was quoted as saying. He is "suspected of spying in the interests of the American government" and of collecting information "on an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex," agencies reported. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) detained on Wednesday in the city of Yekaterinburg, the capital of the Urals, American journalist Evan Gershkovich, 31, and correspondent for The Wall Street Journal in Russia, for alleged espionage, reported this Thursday (03.30.2023) the press department of the Russian intelligence services.

“The FSB aborted the illegal activities of the correspondent of the Moscow branch of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal and American citizen Evan Gershkovich, suspected of espionage in the interests of the United States Government,” the service noted. Gershkovich’s last article in the newspaper, published two days ago, talks about the collapse of the Russian economy.

According to the Moscow authorities, the press professional “collected secret information on the activities of one of the companies of the Russian military-industrial complex on behalf of the US side,” in an apparent reference to the Wagner mercenary group. The independent Russian media Meduza at least stated so in an article.

Up to 20 years in jail

Meduza pointed out in an article that the American reporter was in Yekaterinburg gathering information on the attitude of the Russian population towards the Wagner private army, currently the spearhead of the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. The journalist was detained in front of a restaurant, the outlet specifies. 

The FSB opened a criminal case against him for espionage that could lead to a prison sentence of up to 20 years. According to the local newspaper Vechernie Novosti (Evening News), a reader witnessed the arrest of a man in the city center. “When they took the detainee away, they covered his head with a T-shirt so that passers-by would not see his face,” the newspaper added.

Before starting work for the American daily in 2022, Gershkovich was a Moscow correspondent for the AFP agency and before that for the English-language daily Moscow TimesThe Wall Street Journal issued a statement expressing “deep concern for Gershkovich’s safety” and “vehemently” denying the allegations, urging Russia to release him. Meanwhile, the spokesperson for Russian diplomacy, Maria Zajarova, assured that the journalist was “caught red-handed”, carrying out activities without “any relation to journalism”.