Home world Russia extends detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich by three months

Russia extends detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich by three months

Russia extends detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich by three months

A Russian court has extended the arrest of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich by three months, Russian news agencies reported.

Mr Gershkovich, 31, an American citizen, was ordered to be held until August 30.

He was arrested in March on espionage charges on a reporting trip in Russia. He, his employer and the US government have denied the charges.

Mr Gershkovich is the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying charges, and his arrest drew outrage in the West.

The US government has declared Mr Gershkovich to be “wrongfully detained” and demanded his immediate release. He is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.

Tuesday’s court hearing was not announced in advance, and the entire case has been wrapped in secrecy.

Russian authorities have not detailed what evidence, if any, they have to support the espionage charges.

Various legal proceedings have been closed to the media, and no details immediately emerged about whether Mr Gershkovich or US Embassy representatives attended Tuesday’s hearing or what was said.

Russian news agency Tass said the session was closed because the reporter was accused of possession of “secret materials”.

One Russian news agency, Interfax, quoted a court official as saying Mr Gershkovich’s parents — themselves Soviet emigres living in New Jersey — were visiting Moscow and had been admitted to the court building but not into Tuesday’s hearing.

US Embassy officials were allowed at least one prison visit to Mr Gershkovich since his arrest in Yekaterinburg on March 29 but Russian authorities have denied other visits.

In a statement after Tuesday’s hearing, the Wall Street Journal said: “While we expected there would be no change to Evan’s wrongful detention, we are deeply disappointed. The accusations are demonstrably false, and we continue to demand his immediate release.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in Washington: “We once again call on Russia to comply with their obligation to provide consular access to him.”

He added that the charges against Mr Gershkovich “are baseless and we continue to call for his immediate release as well as for the immediate release of Paul Whelan”.

Mr Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, is serving a 16-year espionage sentence in a remote Russian prison. The retired US marine was detained in 2018.

Mr Whelan and Washington deny he spied in Russia.

The Biden administration had hoped to secure Mr Whelan’s release during negotiations on a prisoner exchange that eventually freed American basketball star Brittney Griner from a Russian prison last December.