On Thursday, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) announced that Evan Gershkovich, an American and reporter for the WSJ’s Moscow bureau, had been arrested in Yekaterinburg.
According to the FSB, Gershkovich had “collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex” after “acting on the instructions of the American side.”
An espionage case has been opened against Gershkovich, who has been recognized as a journalist by the Russian government in the past. The WSJ denied any accusations of spying against Gershkovich.
“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 outlet said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
The alleged “illegal activities” being conducted by Gershkovich had been “stopped” by the FSB, the agency said. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharov, Gershkovich was engaged in “activities that have nothing to do with journalism.”
Gershkovich’s arrest, which is the first time in decades an American journalist has been arrested in Russia, took place in the interior of the country, in the Ural Mountains. In the past, Gerschkovich has worked for the New York Times and Agence France-Presse. His latest story examined the impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy.
According to Jeanne Cavelier of Reporters Without Borders, the arrest might be a form of retaliation as the U.S. has heavily backed Ukraine during its war with Russia.
“It looks like a retaliation measure of Russia against the United States, so we are very alarmed because it is probably a way to intimidate all Western journalists that are trying to investigate aspects of the war on the ground in Russia,” Cavelier told The Associated Press. “The Western powers should immediately ask for clarifications on the charges, because as far as we know he was just doing his job as a journalist.”
In addition to Gerschkovich, Russia is also holding U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan who has been imprisoned in Russia for nearly four years and is currently serving 16 years in a penal colony for a crime that he says never happened.
Russia was also holding American WNBA player Brittney Griner, who pleaded guilty to drug charges, before she was traded for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death,” late last year.