A Wall Street Journal correspondent working in Russia, Evan Gershkovich, was arrested in the city of Ekaterinburg in the Urals by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia on suspicion of espionage. The Russian security agency announced the news of the arrest through a statement issued on Thursday, March 30.
The FSB explained that Gershkovich, who previously worked for the Moscow Times and AFP in Moscow, has been accused of trying to “collect classified information” about a military industry factory, in violation of Russian laws on state secrets.
The FSB alleged that the WSJ reporter, a US citizen who has accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry to work in the country, “acted in the interest of the US government” when he tried to obtain classified information. He was arrested “during an attempt to receive” the intelligence, the statement added.
The FSB Investigative Department opened a criminal investigation against Gershkovich, invoking Article 276 of the Russian Criminal Code, which deals with espionage. If charged, he could face between 10 and 20 years in prison.
The reporter was formally arrested on Thursday by the Lefortovo District Court in Moscow at the request of the FSB investigator overseeing the case. The hearing was held behind closed doors and the defendant’s lawyer was not admitted. The case of Gershkovich, who insists on his innocence, is marked as “top secret,” Russian state media TASS reported.
The WSJ issued a statement reporting that the outlet is “deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Gershkovich.”
Shortly after, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared that his country was “deeply concerned” by Gershkovich’s detention and requested consular access. In turn, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, María Zakharova, announced that consular access for the journalist had been ensured.
Gershkovich “caught red-handed”
Russian presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov stated that Evan Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” trying to obtain Russian state secrets.
Speaking to journalists via conference call, Peskov was asked to comment on the arrest of the US citizen and whether Russia will cooperate with US security services on the issue. Peskov responded that he did not have the full details of the case yet, and that the matter remains in the hands of the FSB.
Asked if the incident could provoke a response from US authorities regarding Russian journalists working in the United States, Peskov said that Moscow hopes no such retaliation will follow; “we are not talking about allegations here. He was caught in the act.”
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova stressed that whatever Gershkovich was doing when he was detained by the FSB, it had “nothing to do with journalism.”
“Unfortunately, it is not the first time that the status of ‘foreign correspondent,’ the journalist visa, or accreditation has been used by foreigners in our country as cover for activities that are not journalistic,” Zakharova stated. “He is not the first westerner to be caught red-handed.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov added that the issue of potentially exchanging the WSJ journalist in a swap deal with the US has not been raised yet.
(RT) with Orinoco Tribune content
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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