- An American journalist from the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, was arrested in Russia on Thursday.
- Gershkovich is charged with espionage for his reporting on the invasion of Ukraine.
- He is the first American journalist detained by Russia for espionage since the Cold War.
Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter arrested Thursday in Russia for espionage, is the first American journalist to be detained and charged with espionage by the country since the Cold War.
Gershkovich, a New York-born journalist based in Moscow, was detained in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Ural Mountains. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) accused him of “attempting to obtain secret information”, according to a statement in state-sponsored media RIA Novosti, saying Gershkovich was acting “on the instructions of the UNITED STATES”.
Although the United States has not officially named Gershkovich as being unlawfully detained, the Biden administration issued a statement condemning the journalist’s arrest by Russia and The Guardian reported that White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre called the espionage charges “ridiculous” and “unacceptable”.
The Wall Street Journal has not been in contact with Gershkovich since his arrest, but the outlet vehemently denies he did anything other than report in Russia. On Saturday, NBC reported that Gershkovich investigated the private military company called the Wagner Group and a tank factory in Yekaterinburg.
“The Wall Street Journal demands the immediate release of our colleague, Evan Gershkovich, a distinguished journalist who was arrested while reporting in Russia,” the outlet said in a statement emailed to Insider on Saturday. “We know what is happening in the world thanks to the fearless reporting of journalists like Evan. Evan’s case is a vicious affront to a free press and should spark the outrage of all free people and governments around the world. No journalist should ever be detained simply for doing their job.”
The last time an American journalist was arrested for spying in Russia was in 1986, when Nicholas D. Daniloff, a reporter for the US News and World Report newspaper and magazine, was charged with spying by the agency. Soviet KGB, five years before the end. of the Cold War.
Daniloff spent weeks in a Russian prison while the Reagan administration negotiated his release, CNN reported.
“In my case, the FBI had arrested a Soviet in New York for spying, and then the Russians arrested me,” Daniloff told CNN, adding that the negotiation that ultimately secured his release also included a “solution for the guy who was arrested in New York.”
The White House has not indicated whether negotiations have begun to secure Gershkovich’s release, but a Thursday statement from the Biden administration said officials are “in direct contact with the Russian government on this matter, including working actively to secure consular access for Mr. Gershkovich.”
“The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn Mr. Gershkovich’s detention in the strongest terms,” Jean-Pierre said in the statement. “We also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and repression against journalists and press freedom.”
The Biden administration recently negotiated the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for possession of hash oil, in exchange for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor End. Other Americans, including former Marine Paul Whelan who has been jailed since 2018, remain in Russian custody.
Emma Tucker, editor of the Wall Street Journal, said CNN’s Anderson Cooper said on Friday that US State Department officials were working with the outlet to find a way to have Gershkovich released from Russian custody.
“We’re very optimistic that the US government will designate him — they’re moving quickly toward his designation as unlawfully detained,” Tucker said. said Cooper. “When that happens, it’s an official acknowledgment that the charges against him are false. And then after that, hopefully things could move a little faster.”