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28 Nov, 2023 12:57

Russian court extends detention of WSJ reporter

Evan Gershkovich, accused of espionage, will remain in custody until the end of January 2024
Russian court extends detention of WSJ reporter

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia on espionage charges in March, will remain in custody until the end of January 2024, a Moscow court ruled on Tuesday.

According to Interfax, the hearing in the Lefortovo district of the Russian capital was held in closed session as the case materials are classified. 

The hearing was attended by representatives of the US Embassy in Moscow, which later issued a statement expressing “deep concern” over the court’s decision. The embassy called for Gershkovich’s immediate release, noting he has already been in custody for nearly eight months.

A US citizen, Gershkovich was arrested in Ekaterinburg earlier this year by officers from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). According to authorities, he was “acting on the instructions of the American side” and “collecting information constituting a state secret” regarding the activities of a Russian military-industrial enterprise. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov later claimed that Gershkovich had been “caught in the act.” The reporter denies the charges against him.

Condemning Gershkovich’s arrest, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted that “journalists must be allowed to practice their profession freely and deserve protection.”

In response, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on Borrell to stand up for Julian Assange, who has been in London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. The WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition to the US, where he faces life imprisonment for publishing information related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal and the US government “vehemently deny the allegations” against Gershkovich and have called for his immediate release.

The administration of US President Biden is seeking offers from around the world to convince Moscow to release Gershkovich and another American citizen, Paul Whelan, a former Marine serving a sentence in Russia for espionage, CNN reported in May. The news channel said Washington had no top Russian spies in custody and was trying to find them in allied countries for further exchanges.