Russia Extends U.S. Reporter Evan Gershkovich’s Detention

A court in Moscow on Friday extended the pretrial detention of an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal who is awaiting a hearing on an espionage charge that he, his newspaper and the U.S. government vehemently deny.

The reporter, Evan Gershkovich, 32, who was arrested last March during a reporting trip to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, was ordered to stay in prison until at least March 30, according to a statement by the news service of the Moscow court system. It was the fourth time that Mr. Gershkovich’s detention had been extended, and it means that he will spend at least a year in Russian custody.

A video of Mr. Gershkovich, posted along with the statement, showed him standing and listening to the ruling in a courthouse cage, wearing bluejeans and a dark hoodie, with his arms folded. If convicted, Mr. Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in a Russian penal colony.

The American Embassy in Moscow said in a statement that its representatives were present at the hearing on Friday. “The grounds for Evan’s detention are baseless,” the embassy said in a social media post. “We continue to call for Evan’s immediate release.”

Russian lawyers who have worked on similar cases, said that it usually takes up to one and one half years for such proceedings to reach trial, which can then take another six months to complete. Russian investigators so far have not publicly presented any evidence to support the espionage charge against Mr. Gershkovich.

The Russian authorities have suggested that they could be open to a prisoner swap for Mr. Gershkovich but only after a verdict is made in his case. Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said in December that Washington had made a “substantial” offer to do a swap for Mr. Gershkovich and another American in detention, Paul Whelan, but that Moscow had rejected it.

Mr. Gershkovich was the first American journalist to be arrested on a spying charge since the end of the Cold War, highlighting the extent to which Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has damaged relations between Moscow and Washington.

The U.S. government has designated Mr. Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” which effectively means that the American government considers him a political prisoner.

Other Americans detained in Russia who have received this designation include the basketball star Brittney Griner, who was arrested on drug trafficking charges and released in December 2022 in a prisoner exchange, and Mr. Whelan, a former Marine and corporate executive who is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges that the United States calls politically motivated.

In October, the Russian authorities detained Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an American broadcaster funded by the U.S. government. Ms. Kurmasheva, who holds both Russian and American citizenship, was charged with failing to register as a “foreign agent.”

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