Russian court extends detention of US journalist Gershkovich

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges, which he denies.

This grab from a handout footage provided by the Moscow City Court on December 14, 2023 shows US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, standing inside a defendants' cage a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, in Moscow. - A court in Moscow on December 14, 2023 upheld a ruling to hold in detention until January 30 US reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia earlier this year on espionage charges. (Photo by Handout / Moscow City Court press service / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / MOSCOW CITY COURT / HANDOUT" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / Moscow City Court / handout" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS /
Evan Gershkovich rejects Moscow's charges [File: Handout/Moscow City Court press service via AFP]

A court in Moscow has 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 Friday’s hearing at the Lefortovo District Court, which took place behind closed doors because authorities say details of the criminal case against the journalist are classified.

In video shared by the 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 as he left the court.

Gershkovich, 32, was detained in March while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, about 2,000km (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 US newspaper he works for deny the allegations, and the US government has said he has been wrongfully detained. Russian authorities have not detailed any evidence to support the espionage charges as his detention has been extended multiple times.

‘It is not easy’

During his annual news conference in December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow is in talks with Washington on sending home both Gershkovich and jailed American Paul Whelan and the Kremlin hopes to “find a solution” even though “it is not easy”.

Whelan, a former US marine and security executive, was arrested in Russia in 2018 and convicted of spying in 2020.

Putin was replying to a question about an offer that the administration of US President Joe Biden made to secure the two men’s release. The US Department of State referenced the offer in December, without providing 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 Ministry of Foreign Affairs 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 US reporter to be charged with espionage in Russia since 1986 when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for US News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. Gershkovich is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, notorious for its harsh conditions.

Source: News Agencies