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FSB arrests Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Yekaterinburg
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) announced Thursday that it has arrested U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on suspicion of spying for the American government.
According to the agency’s statement, Gershkovich, “acting on instructions from the American side, was collecting information that constitutes state secrets about the activity of one of the entities of the Russian military industrial complex.”
A felony espionage case has been opened against Gershkovich. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison in accordance with Russia’s Criminal Code.
Later on Thursday, Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court remanded Gershkovich in custody until May 29, a the FSB’s request. The hearing, TASS reports, was closed to the press. The case is classified as top secret.
Mediazona writes that the journalist was brought to the courthouse at 2 p.m. Moscow time. Ahead of his arrival, the building was fully evacuated. When the attorney Daniil Berman arrived bearing a warrant to represent Gershkovich, he wasn’t allowed to meet with the defendant.
Following the FSB’s announcement, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that Gershkovich was “caught red-handed.”
Earlier on Thursday, the outlet 66.ru reported that Gershkovich had gone missing in Yekaterinburg. Local publicist Yaroslav Shirshikov, who accompanied Gershkovich on an earlier reporting trip, told the outlet 66.ru that Gershkovich was working on on a story about Russia’s Wagner mercenary group.
“He came on this big expedition. What interested him most was the relationship between Wagner Group and the ‘special military operation’ overall. […] Evan didn’t write publicly [about his trip] anywhere, and I drove him behind the scenes to various interviewees. We managed to avoid provocations. He was satisfied with the trip,” Shirshikov said.
One Western journalist working in Russia told Meduza that in addition to Yekaterinburg, Gershkovich has traveled to the city of Nizhny Tagil, where the defense contractor Uralvagonzavod is located.
On Wednesday, local media reported that security officers in Yekaterinburg had arrested a person near a restaurant called Bukowski Grill and had pulled a sweater over his head so that his face couldn’t be seen. Shirshikov speculated on Telegram that the arrestee may have been Gershkovich.
Shirshikov said that early on Thursday morning, a person who introduced himself as Thomas called him from a London number. Thomas said that Gershkovich had returned to Yekaterinburg the previous day and that his editors had been unable to reach him for an entire day.
Evan Gershkovich has lived in Moscow for about six years and is accredited with the Russian Foreign Ministry. In addition to The Wall Street Journal, he has written for Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times, and The New York Times.
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