Russia detains Wall Street Journal reporter over spying allegations

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Russian security services detained Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, in Yekaterinburg on Thursday on suspicion of spying for the U.S., according to state media reports.

Gershkovich, who is a U.S. citizen, is “suspected of espionage in the interests of the American government” and accused of “trying to obtain secret information,” Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement, according to state news agency TASS.

In Russia, the charge of espionage is punishable by 20 years in prison.

Detaining a foreign journalist marks a significant escalation in hostility toward foreign media. Since President Vladimir Putin launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, Russian authorities been making it increasingly difficult for foreign reporters to work in the country, denying and delaying visas and media accreditation and requiring local support staff to register as “foreign agents,” requiring them to file burdensome paperwork.

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“It has been established that Evan Gershkovich, acting on instructions from the American side, was collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” the statement claimed.

The NGO Reporters Without Borders tweeted that Gershkovich was “investigating the Wagner military company.”

“Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by what seems to be a ‘retaliation’ measure: journalists should not be targeted,” it added.

The Wall Street Journal said in a statement that it was “deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Gershkovich.”

Although the Russian authorities have cracked down on local independent media since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, forcing some journalists to flee the country, this is the first time a foreign journalist has been arrested in the country since February 2022.

According to AP, Gershkovich is the first reporter working for U.S. media to have been arrested in Russia for espionage since the Cold War.

Political consultant Tatiana Stanovaya wrote on Telegram: “Interestingly, the FSB evasively claims that Evan was acting ‘on behalf of the Americans,’ which can be interpreted very broadly. The editorial board of WSJ is also American. This suggests that the FSB has no evidence to indicate that Evan was specifically working as a spy undercover as a journalist. However, this undoubtedly brings Russia and the United States’ relationship to a new level of confrontation.”

This is a developing story.