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WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's pretrial detention in Russia extended

Friday's hearing was held behind closed doors because Russian authorities say details are classified.
WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich's pretrial detention in Russia extended
Posted at 10:44 AM, Jan 26, 2024

A court in Moscow Friday extended the pretrial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, until the end of March, meaning the journalist will spend at least a year behind bars in Russia.

United States Consul General Stuart Wilson attended the hearing at Lefortovo District Court, which took place behind closed doors because authorities say details of the criminal case against the American journalist are classified.

In video shared by state news agency Ria Novosti, Gershkovich was shown listening to the ruling, standing in a court cage wearing a hooded top and light blue jeans. He was pictured a short time later walking towards a prison van to leave the court.

Gershkovich, 32, was detained in March while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 1,200 miles east of Moscow.

Russia’s Federal Security Service alleged that the reporter, “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.”

Gershkovich and the Journal deny the allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained. Russian authorities haven’t detailed any evidence to support the espionage charges.

SEE MORE: US citizen has been arrested in Russia on drug charges

During his end-of-year news conference in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Moscow is in dialogue with the United States on bringing home both Gershkovich and jailed American Paul Whelan, and that the Kremlin hopes to “find a solution” even though “it’s not easy.”

Putin was replying to a question about an offer the Biden administration made to secure the two men’s release. The U.S. State Department reported it in December, without offering details, and said Russia rejected it.

“We have contacts on this matter with our American partners, there’s a dialogue on this issue. It’s not easy, I won’t go into details right now. But in general, it seems to me that we’re speaking a language each of us understands,” Putin said.

“I hope we will find a solution,” he continued. “But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make a decision that will satisfy the Russian side as well.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry has said it will consider a swap for Gershkovich only after a verdict in his trial. In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year.

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be charged with espionage in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. Gershkovich is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.

Analysts have said that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips after U.S.-Russian tensions soared when Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years, including WNBA star Brittney Griner, have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.

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