Reporter Arrested in Russia Stands Accused of Espionage

Reporter Arrested in Russia Stands Accused of Espionage

( – Another American has been arrested in Russia. This time it’s a journalist, who now faces charges of spying for the US government. Although several other Americans have been arrested in Russia over the last few years, this is the first time a journalist has been detained since the end of the Cold War.

On March 30, Russian state-owned news service RIA Novosti reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) had arrested Wall Street Times journalist Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges. Gershkovich was apparently arrested in Yekaterinburg, around a thousand miles east of Moscow, on Wednesday night. The FSB says he’s “suspected of spying in the interests of the US government” and had been arrested after collecting secret information about a Russian defense company. On March 31, he was taken to Lefortovo District Court in Moscow, where a judge ordered his detention until May 29.

The Wall Street Journal denies the FSB claim that New York City-born Gershkovich, who has been working in Russia for six years, is involved in espionage or linked to US intelligence agencies. It’s possible the real reason for his arrest is that, last week, he wrote a WSJ piece on how the costs of the Ukraine invasion are damaging Russia’s struggling economy. Reporters Without Borders says Gershkovitch had gone to Yekaterinburg, a major industrial city with many defense companies, to write a story on the Wagner mercenary group.

John J. Sullivan, who was US Ambassador to Russia from 2019 until 2022, says Gershkovich was probably arrested to be used as leverage in a prisoner swap. Russia has been trading captive westerners for Russian criminals for a long time, going back at least to captured CIA pilot Gary Powers in 1962.

Notoriously, last year President Joe Biden swapped arms dealer Viktor Bout for basketball player Brittney Griner, who was arrested while attempting to take drugs into Russia. Sullivan says the fact Gershkovich has been charged with espionage instead of a normal criminal offense suggests Russia wants to exchange him for someone important.

If Putin could get “Merchant of death” Bout back in exchange for a minor athlete who was guilty as charged, he must have high hopes for what Biden will give him in exchange for a framed journalist.

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