Russia has detained a Wall Street Journal reporter on charges of espionage, which the newspaper has denied.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, said on Thursday that Evan Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg, located in the Ural Mountains, where he was allegedly trying to gain access to classified information.
The agency claimed Gershkovich was acting on orders from the United States to “collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries as part of the Journal’s Moscow bureau.
The Journal rejected the allegations that Gershkovich was conducting espionage and called for his release in a statement following his arrest.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the Journal said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage. Russia’s justice system, which has more than a 99 percent conviction rate and does not allow for fair trials, has been internationally criticized.
Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first time since the Cold War that a U.S. correspondent was detained on allegations of spying, and he is the first U.S. reporter to be arrested in Russia on espionage charges since 1986.
The Russian Foreign Ministry alleged that Gershkovich used his accreditation as a journalist to engage in activities “that have nothing to do with journalism.”
Gershkovich most recently reported on the effects of Western sanctions on the Russian economy following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
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