Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich arrested in Russia on spying charges
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of espionage, the first time a US journalist has been detained on accusations by Moscow of spying since the Cold War.
“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation has stopped the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich, born in 1991, a correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal,” Russia’s main security service, the FSB, said in a statement Thursday.
In a statement, the Wall Street Journal said 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,” the US newspaper said.
CNN has contacted the US State Department for comment.
The FSB said Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, on the eastern side of the Ural Mountains, and claimed he was “trying to obtain secret information” relating to “the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”
The FSB said the reporter, who is accredited by Russia’s foreign ministry, was “acting on the instructions of the American side” and “trying to obtain secret information.”
Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, according to his biography on the Wall Street Journal’s website. He previously worked for news agency Agence France-Presse, the Moscow Times and the New York Times.
Gershkovich’s arrest comes as tensions between the United States and Russia are already high over President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Detentions of other Americans have led to lengthy and difficult negations between Washington and Moscow.
US basketball star Brittney Griner, detained in February 2022 on what the US described as trumped-up drug smuggling charges, was released in December in a prisoner swap for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
However, the US did not secure the release of another American, Paul Whelan. Whelan, a former Marine who is a US, Irish, British and Canadian citizen, was detained at a Moscow hotel in December 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was involved in an intelligence operation. He was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison in 2020 after a trial US officials called unfair.
The US has continued campaigning for his release. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month that a “serious proposal” had been put to Kremlin officials.
In another move by Washington, the Justice Department last week announced criminal charges against Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov, a Russian national who allegedly entered America under a fake identity and gathered intelligence ahead of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Gershkovich’s detention also marks a significant stepping up of Russia’s curbs on the media.
Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin made it a crime to disseminate “fake” information about the Russian army and the invasion of Ukraine, prompting global news organizations including CNN to temporarily suspend broadcasting from the country.
Gershkovich is the first journalist to be accused of spying by Russia since 1986, when reporter Nick Daniloff was detained on a similar charge while working for the U.S. News and World Report newspaper and magazine. He spent weeks in a Russian prison before the Reagan administration negotiated his release.