Russian court orders Wall Street Journal reporter to be held in custody

March 31, 2023

Russia’s main security agency said on Thursday, March 30, that it had detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, 31, for what it described as espionage, reports the Journal.

Gershkovich—a U.S. citizen and member of the Journal’s Moscow bureau—was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg, around 880 miles east of Moscow, on Wednesday while on a reporting trip.

A post later appeared on Telegram describing a man with his face hidden being bundled from a restaurant in the city and put into a waiting van. It couldn’t be determined whether the person was Gershkovich.

Gershkovich is accredited to work as a journalist in Russia by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

Russia’s Federal Security Bureau said Gershkovich, “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the Journal said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”

Authorities took Gershkovich to Moscow, where he appeared in court with a state-appointed defense attorney and was ordered held in custody until May 29, said the press service of the court, according to state news agency TASS.

In Russia, espionage trials are often conducted in secret and it is rare for a court to acquit a defendant. Trials can take months to unfold.

Gershkovich’s detention and charge on the allegation of espionage mean the case is likely to become a high-level diplomatic issue.

Russia last March passed a censorship law that makes it illegal to publish what authorities deem false information about military operations in Ukraine. In response, many domestic news outlets ceased operations or left the country; and foreign media significantly restricted reporting inside Russia and withdrew many staff.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that “those who carry out normal journalistic activities, of course, if they have valid accreditation, they will continue to work.”

Research contact: @WSJ