Moscow court extends detention of American journalist
Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia in late March and charged with espionage, will remain behind bars, the Lefortovo court in Moscow confirmed on Tuesday.
“The court granted the investigator’s request to extend the restraint regime in the form of detention until August 30,” a statement read.
The 31-year old journalist was detained near a military facility in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. The Russian security service, the FSB, claim he was soliciting “information amounting to a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” If convicted, he faces up to 20 years behind bars.
Gershkovich’s attorney tried to have him released on a bail of 50 million rubles ($622,500), which the WSJ’s parent company offered to pay, but the court rejected her motion last month.
The US embassy in Moscow was also denied permission to pay him a consular visit. The Russian Foreign Ministry said this was retaliation for the embassy withholding visas from Russian journalists seeking to accompany Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the UN Security Council last month.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken officially designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” by Russia in April. State Department spokesman Vedant Patel accused Russia of an “ongoing war against the truth” and insisted that “journalism is not a crime.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has countered that what Gershkovich was doing in Yekaterinburg “had nothing to do with journalism.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the WSJ reporter as being “caught red-handed” in an act of espionage.
The US has reportedly been looking for “creative solutions” to get Gershkovich released, including arresting some “Russian spies” in third countries to offer in exchange. One Russian lawmaker has proposed trading the WSJ reporter for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, currently held in a British maximum-security prison while the US seeks his extradition on espionage charges.