US journalist jailed in Russia: Moscow court upholds Evan Gershkovich's arrest on disputed spying charges

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)
US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest at the Moscow City Court in Moscow (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images
Evan Gershkovich was working in the city of Yekaterinburg when he was arrested by Russian officers

A request for a consular visit for jailed US journalist Evan Gershkovich has been denied by Russian officials.

It comes after a Russian court has upheld the detention of US reporter Evan Gershkovich, after he was arrested on suspicion of spying against the state.

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Evan Gershkovich was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg, where he resided as a Russian correspondent for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), in late March. On Tuesday (18 April), he appeared in a Moscow court to appeal against his detention.

The reporter is the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying allegations. The Associated Press reported Gershkovich looked calm as he stood inside a glass cage in the courtroom, with US Ambassador Lynne Tracy in the room.

The arrest has sparked outrage in the US. His employers have attempted to contact officials to locate Gershkovich, while the Biden administration condemned the arrest and detention. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Russian lawyers have said past investigations into espionage cases took a year to 18 months, during which time he could have little contact with the outside world.

Gershkovich has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which dates from the tsarist era and has been a terrifying symbol of repression since Soviet times. The arrest comes at a moment of bitter tensions between the West and Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine and as the Kremlin intensifies a crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups.

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The Kremlin says that Gershkovich was caught "red-handed" undertaking spying, but this has been disputed by the WSJ. Russia becoming an increasingly difficult country to report from for foreign journalists amid the Ukraine war.

Here's everything you need to know about the situation.

Who is Evan Gershkovich?

Gershkovich is a 31-year-old reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He is well-known within his field, having worked as a Russian correspondent for multiple outlets throughout his career.

The reporter was born in New York to parents who had emigrated from the Soviet Union. He moved to Russia in 2017.

Previous to his time at the WSJ, Gerchkovich worked for outlets such as Agence France Presse and The Moscow Times. He began his role at the WSJ in January 2022.

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US journalist Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of spying charges.  (Credit: Getty Images)US journalist Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of spying charges.  (Credit: Getty Images)
US journalist Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia on suspicion of spying charges. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Why was Evan Gershkovich arrested in Russia?

The FSB security service arrested the journalist on suspicion of espionage activities. At the time of the arrest, Gershkovich was reporting on the Russian Wagner Group paramilitary organisation.

The alert was raised after Gershkovich lost contact with his editors on Wednesday (29 March) afternoon while reporting in Yekaterinburg. US officials confirmed that his driver had dropped him off at a restaurant in the city before his phone was turned off for two hours.

The FSB security service said that the reporter has been arrested after he "collected information classified as a state secret about the activities of a Russian defence enterprise". It said that he had been detained acting on "acting on US instructions".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added: "This is the responsibility of the FSB, they have already issued a statement. The only thing I can add is, as far as we know, he was caught red-handed."

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In a statement, the Wall Street Journal said: "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 US has now classified Gershkovich as "wrongfully detained", a status matching that of a political hostage. A statement from the Department of State read: “Today (Monday 10 April) Secretary Blinken made a determination that Evan Gershkovich is wrongfully detained by Russia.

“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”

The latest court appearance comes just one day after a British-Russian opposition leader who criticised the Russian invasion of Ukraine was sentenced to 25 years in prison by a Moscow court.

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The UK has demanded the release of Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr, with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly paid tribute to him for “bravely” denouncing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin critic, who has twice survived poisonings, was convicted on charges of treason and denigrating the Russian military in what Cleverly denounced as a show trial.

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