The justice of Russia this Thursday imposed a two-month detention provision on Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist of the Wall Street Journal, accused of “espionage”, an unprecedented case in the recent history of the country, which causes “care” in the United States of America. .
The arrest of the journalist occurs in the context of repression against journalists in Russia, which has been aimed at the beginning of the offensive against Ukraine. The conflict has further strained relations between Washington and Moscow.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) announced on Thursday that the journalist was detained in Yekaterinburg, more than 1,700 km east of Moscow, on suspicion of “espionage”. The capture has not been determined.
Gershkovich, 31, has pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to an official from Russia’s Tass agency.
Authorities have remanded him in custody until May 29, although a possible trial date could be extended.
According to Tass, the case is classified as “confidential”, which restricts the publication of information about it.
Russia’s federal security ministry accuses the US reporter of “spying for the US government” and collecting information “about the Russian military-industrial complex.”
The crime of espionage in Russia is punishable by between ten and twenty years in prison, according to article 276 of the penal code.
Before joining the Wall Street Journal in 2022, he was a journalist for AFP Moscow and previously worked for the English-language website of the Moscow Times. Gershkovich speaks Russian perfectly; his family immigrated from Russia to the United States when he was a child.
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The WSJ said Gershkovich “is a health concern,” denied the charges to his reporter and called for his “immediate release.”
For its part, the White House declared the detention “unacceptable” and the head of the US embassy, Anthony Blinken, said he was “struck” by his detention.
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The European Union also condemned the arrest of the reporter. “The Russian authorities demonstrate once again their systematic disregard for the freedom of the media,” wrote Josep Borrell, the head of the European Diplomatic Service.
Russia has crossed the line, said the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The committee has “declared to foreign authorities that it will not be spared from the ongoing purges of independent media,” he added.
The Kremlin, on the other hand, stated that the reporter was caught “in flagrante delicto” and warned against any kind of retaliation against the Russian media in the United States.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has expressed alarm at the “increasing trend of journalists being harassed, detained or worse to do their job,” according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Since the start of the conflict in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, Russia has passed several laws that severely punish criticism of the government or treat any investigative journalism as an act of propaganda.
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According to independent Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, FBS may take a journalist “hostage” with a view to the exchange of prisoners.
Asked about a possible prisoner exchange, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Riabkov, said it was necessary to see “how this case develops.”
Several US citizens are currently in prison in Russia.
Among them is Paul Whelan, a 53-year-old ex-marine arrested in 2018 who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for the investigation.
During the last year, the trade in captives between the two countries has been very high.
In December, Moscow released American basketball star Brittney Griner, who had detained cannabis oil in the country, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Russian journalists critical of the Kremlin have often been subject to criminal prosecution in Russia, which until now has generally spared foreign journalists.
Parallel conditions have been pressed for accreditation for foreign journalists, which are also sometimes followed by security services, especially when working outside Moscow.