Russia's counterintelligence agency detained a Wall Street Journal reporter on espionage charges, which could land him in prison for up to 20 years.
The Federal Security Service, also known by its Russian-language initials FSB, detained Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Yekaterinburg under charges of collecting military secrets, the paper reported Thursday.
In a statement, the Journal said it "vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich."
Gershkovich, who had permission from Russia's Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist, before his arrest was working on a story about a Russian private military group heavily involved in the Ukraine war.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova announced the Russian government's assertion that Gershkovich was involved in U.S. government-backed espionage.
"What an employee of the American publication the Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg has nothing to do with journalism," Zakharova said.
Russian law prohibits what the government considers false reporting on its military activities, which complicates inside reporting on the Ukraine war.
The arrest is just the latest event in the deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations. Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan was arrested in 2018 on espionage charges in Russia, for which he has spent years in Russian prison. The Biden administration last year made the controversial decision to free WNBA player Brittney Griner in exchange for releasing notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russia, leaving Whelan in prison.