Russian court extends pretrial detention for reporter from NJ accused of spying

The court's order means Evan Gershkovich will spend at least a year behind bars in Russia after his arrest in March 2023 while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg

Associated Press

Feb 20, 2024, 2:40 PM

Updated 61 days ago

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A court in the Russian capital ruled Tuesday to keep Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in custody pending his trial on espionage charges that he denies.
The Moscow City Court rejected an appeal against Gershkovich's detention filed by his lawyers, upholding an earlier ruling to keep him behind bars until the end of March.
The court's order means that Gershkovich, 32 will spend at least a year behind bars in Russia after his arrest in March 2023 while on a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains.
Gershkovich and the Journal have denied the espionage 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.
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.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted from the Lefortovsky court after the hearing in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. A Moscow court extended the pretrial detention of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who was detained on espionage charges, through March in a Friday ruling. A 32-year-old United States citizen, Gershkovich was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg while on a reporting trip to Russia in late March 2023. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Speaking in an interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia is ready to negotiate a deal to exchange Gershkovich and hinted that Moscow wants the release of a Russian imprisoned in Germany.
Putin charged that Gershkovich “was caught red-handed when he was secretly getting classified information,” while adding that "there are certain conditions that are being discussed between special services. I believe an agreement can be reached.”
He pointed to a man imprisoned in a “U.S.-allied country” for “liquidating a bandit” who had allegedly killed Russian soldiers during separatist fighting in Chechnya. Putin didn’t mention names but appeared to refer to Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany after being convicted of the 2019 killing in Berlin of Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen ethnicity.
German judges said Krasikov acted on the orders of Russian authorities, who gave him a false identity and passport and resources to carry out the killing.
German officials have refused comment when asked if there had been any effort by Russia to secure a swap of Krasikov and Gershkovich and whether Berlin was in contact with the U.S.
In December, the U.S. State Department said that Russia had rejected several proposals for freeing Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a corporate security executive from Michigan, has been jailed in Russia since his December 2018 arrest on espionage-related charges that both he and the U.S. government dispute. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison.
Earlier this month, a Moscow court remanded a German citizen in custody on drug smuggling charges after his arrest over possession of cannabis gummies. Patrick Schobel, 38, who was detained at Pulkovo airport in St. Petersburg last month, told authorities he brought the gummies to have a better sleep on long flights.
Some analysts have noted 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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