Russia Indicts US Journalist Gershkovich on Trumped-Up Espionage Charges

Evan Gershkovich (Reuters)
June 13, 2024

Russia on Thursday indicted American reporter Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage after more than a year of imprisonment in Moscow.

Gershkovich was detained in March last year while on assignment in Yekaterinburg for the Wall Street Journal. Russian prosecutors on Thursday alleged without evidence that Gershkovich was gathering intelligence for the CIA about a Russian tank manufacturer.

Gershkovich, the office of Russia’s General Prosecutor said, "on the instructions of the CIA, collected secret information in the Sverdlovsk region in March 2023 about the activities of the defense plant NPK Uralvagonzavod JSC on the production and repair of military equipment."

The journalist is the latest American to face charges in Russia, which has been accused of falsely imprisoning Americans to gain leverage in disputes with the United States. Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison on the espionage charges.

No evidence has been presented to support the accusations against Gershkovich. He is the first American journalist arrested in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War, Reuters reported.

While the State Department has made efforts to secure Gershkovich's release, Russia and the United States have reportedly failed to reach a consensus on a deal that would free the journalist.

"The U.S. side is continuing to disregard our proposals," Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said in May. "It’s a highly delicate topic. In the past, we managed to come to a resolution on some of the high-profile cases but then came the long standstill that we’re in now."

The Biden administration in December 2022 struck a deal to free WNBA player Britney Griner, imprisoned in Russia on drug charges. In exchange, the United States released Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer nicknamed the "Merchant of Death."

Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan is also imprisoned in Russia on a 16-year sentence for charges of espionage. Alsu Kurmasheva, a U.S. citizen and Radio Free Europe journalist, is also being held for her role in editing a book that criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin, when asked about Gershkovich this month, suggested that the United States and Russia were discussing a new exchange.

"I know the United States administration is indeed taking vigorous steps to free him," Putin said. "But such issues are not resolved through the media. They like a quiet, calm, professional approach and dialogue between intelligence agencies. And, of course, they should be resolved only on the basis of reciprocity."

Published under: Russia