Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images
Russia’s Moscow City Court refused to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich from pretrial detention on Thursday, rejecting an appeal by the American journalist who is being held on espionage charges. Gershkovich’s parents attended the hearing.
Authorities have not offered any evidence to support their accusations against Gershkovich; The United States says he is being “unfairly detained” and must be released immediately.
Gershkovich’s parents traveled to Russia to hear the decision and were able to briefly see and speak to their son through an opening in the glass and metal cage from which they watched Thursday’s proceedings. Gershkovich, dressed in a dark T-shirt and jeans, was seen smiling as he spoke to his mother.
Gershkovich has been detained since late March, when he was detained by Russian security agents during a briefing trip near the Ural Mountains in western Russia. His appeal sought to overturn a court ruling in May that extended his pretrial detention for three months, until at least August 30.
The court noted that the charges accuse Gershkovich of collecting information about Russia’s military-industrial complex. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in April that Gershkovich “was caught red-handed and the journalistic status of him … was simply a cover for spying.”
Despite that claim, Russia’s decision to detain an American journalist for the first time in decades is widely seen as an escalation of two items on the Kremlin’s agenda: seizing the upper hand in negotiations over disputes with the US war against neighboring Ukraine.
“This entire legal process in regards to Evan is a sham,” US State Department senior deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said on Wednesday. “We have been very clear that Evan is being wrongfully detained, wrongfully detained and persecuted simply for doing his job” as a journalist.
Gershkovich was detained months after Moscow released WNBA star Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap in exchange for the United States releasing convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Former US Marine Paul Whelan has been in Russian custody for more than four years after his arrest in late 2018. He was later sentenced to serve 16 years in a Russian penal colony on what the US says are trumped-up espionage charges. The Biden administration has promised to continue working to secure his release.