Evan Gershkovich to stand trial in Russia on charges of spying for CIA

June 13, 2024
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American journalist Evan Gershkovich will stand trial in Russia on charges of spying for the CIA, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 on what many in the West consider trumped-up charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repressive government.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Putin to release Gershkovich, 32, who was arrested while on a reporting trip in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. Gershkovich, his employer and the U.S. government have all vehemently denied the allegations.

After more than a year in pretrial detention, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said Thursday that Gershkovich’s case would be sent to the Sverdlovsk Regional Court, in the city where he was arrested, for trial at an unspecified date.

The prosecutor’s office said that Gershkovich’s indictment on espionage charges had been finalized following an investigation by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.

It said he had “acted on instructions from the CIA” and “collected secret information” about the manufacturer Uralvagonzavod, a facility in the region that produces and repairs military equipment. It added that “illegal actions were carried out by Gershkovich in compliance with careful measures of secrecy.”

Russian authorities have presented no evidence to support their accusations, which were revealed for the first time in Thursday’s statement.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In a joint statement, Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal Publisher Almar Latour and Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker said “we had hoped to avoid this moment.”

“Evan Gershkovich is facing a false and baseless charge,” it said. “Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous. Evan has spent 441 days wrongfully detained in a Russian prison for simply doing his job.”

Gershkovich’s arrest has been condemned by journalists and government officials across the West, who see it as emblematic of the war Putin has waged against freedom of speech both in Russia and abroad.

The U.S. has designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained, with Ambassador Lynne Tracy saying at a hearing in March that “the accusations against Evan are categorically untrue.”

But Putin has signaled he believes a deal could be struck to free Gershkovich.

A possible exchange had been in the works that could have resulted in the release of Gershkovich, former Marine Paul Whelan, and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, sources told NBC News in February.

The swap was not thought to be imminent when the death of Navalny in an Arctic penal colony was announced on Feb. 16., five sources told NBC News.

Gershkovich has been kept in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, which is known for its harsh conditions. His multiple appeals have been rejected in court, and a previous announcement said that his pretrial detention had been extended until at least June 30.

During these court appearances, Gershkovich often smiles and appears in good spirits. But his detention has weighed on his family.

“It has been hard,” his father, Mikhail Gershkovich, told NBC News in March to mark the anniversary of his arrest. “He spent all four seasons there, he spent his birthday and all the holidays. We want him home as soon as possible.”

His parents left the then-Soviet Union for the U.S. during the Cold War. He and his older sister grew up speaking Russian at home, and the family calls him “Vanya,” the diminutive for his Russian name, Ivan. 

His interest in Russia motivated his decision to move there in 2017 to work as a journalist.

But everything changed when Russia invaded Ukraine in Feb. 2022, the family said. Like many other foreign reporters wary of Russia’s tightening grip on press freedom, Gershkovich moved abroad, albeit regularly returning for reporting trips. 

Since his arrest, another American Russian journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva, has also been detained, along with several other U.S. nationals. The U.S. government has said this is a deliberate strategy by Putin to use them as geopolitical pawns.



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