A Wall Street Journal reporter has been detained in the city of Yekaterinburg, Russia on suspicion of espionage in what arguably represents Russia’s most brazen move against an American journalist since the Cold War.
31-year-old Evan Gershkovich was on assignment for the Wall Street Journal in Yekaterinburg when agents of Vladimir Putin’s FSB arrested him.
The Sun reports:
Gershkovich was held by Vladimir Putin’s FSB security service and accused of trying to obtain military secrets about a factory, though did not name the factory and it has so far not provided any evidence to back up its allegation.
The journalist was reportedly held at a restaurant and bundled into a car by plain-clothed officers with a sweater pulled over his head.
He later appeared in court in Moscow, where he pleaded not guilty to espionage.
Gershkovich was seen being led into a van by guards from the Lefortovsky court in the Russian capital.
Gershkovich will reportedly be held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which is infamous for torture and poor conditions. During Joseph Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’ in the 1930s, thousands were “shot or tortured to death” at Lefortovo.
If the young journalist is convicted, he could be sentenced to twenty years in prison.
The Wall Street Journal has released numerous statements supporting Gershkovich and denying Russia’s charges of espionage.
“The Wall Street Journal is deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Gershkovich,” one spokesperson said.
A later statement published by the paper reads, “The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich.”
“We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
Gershkovich had previously been reporting in Russia for over six years, according to the Sun, and is an accredited journalist in the country. Most recently, he closely followed the conflict in Ukraine and the economic crisis in Russia.