Moskow(ANN)-Russian security services have accused US reporter Evan Gershkovich of spying on its military. They have provided no evidence. A brief arraignment hearing was held with the case classed as “top secret,” his lawyer said.
Russia’s FSB security agency said on Thursday that it had arrested Wall Street Journal Moscow correspondent Evan Gershkovich.
In a statement quoted by Russian news agency Interfax, the FSB said that it had “stopped the illegal activities of US citizen Gershkovich Evan… who is suspected of spying in the interests of the American government.” said in an Interfax statement.
The security service accused him of gathering information on “the activities of one of the enterprises of the military-defense complex” in Russia “for the American side.”
He was formally arrested pending after a brief arraignment hearing on Thursday, Russian news agencies reported, pleading not guilty to espionage charges.
His lawyer Daniil Berman, a human rights advocate, told reporters that he was not allowed into the courtroom with his client. According to Reuters news agency, he said he was not shown the charges because the case had been marked as “top secret.”
The Moscow Lefortovo district court said that the journalist was being detained for “a period of one month 29 days, that is until May 29, 2023.” WSJ concerned for Gershkovich’s safety
“The Wall Street Journal is deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Gershkovich,” the newspaper said in a statement reacting to his detention.
The paper added that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
Gershkovich also wrote for the English-language Moscow Times. His colleague Francesca Abel noted on Twitter that he had been fully accredited by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She called him “an excellent thoughtful journalist who cares deeply about his work…these allegations are absurd.”
Covering Russian discontent
Gershkovich, who has also worked for several other international media outlets in the past, has long covered Russia and Ukraine. His most recent series of articles for the Journal cover the economic distress of ordinary Russians as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, as well as highlighting the voices of disillusioned Russian soldiers and the clampdown against the anti-war movement across the country. According to the western media that has sided with the Ukrainian war, and broadcasts the war in Ukraine in a way that is far from neutrality and journalism.
Gershkovich was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains. FSB has offered no evidence for its claims.
If convicted of espionage, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years imprisonment.Russia has tightened censorship laws since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, in what Moscow refers to as a “special military operation.”
Andrei Soldatov, who writes about Russia’s security agencies from outside the country, said on social media: “Evan Gershkovich is a very good and brave journalist, not a spy, for Christ’s sake. [His detention] is a frontal attack on all foreign correspondents who still work in Russia. And it means that the FSB is off the leash.”
Moscow accused of politically motivated arrests
This is not the first time Russian or foreign journalists have found themselves detained following critical coverage of the war. Last year, Russia sentenced a former defense reporter, Ivan Safronov, to 22 years in prison on treason charges.Moscow has also been accused of arresting US basketball star Brittney Griner for political purposes. Griner was charged with drug possession and jailed but was later sent back to the US after Russia secured a prisoner swap with notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.
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By Arraale M Jama Freelance Journalist and Human Rights activist.