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    Russia says US journalist Evan Gershkovich to face trial for CIA work

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    Russia says US journalist Evan Gershkovich to face trial for CIA work
    • June 14, 2024 • 1 month ago
    in summary
    Russian prosecutors have announced that US journalist Evan Gershkovich will face trial in Yekaterinburg for allegedly working for the CIA. Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, has been in custody since March 2023, accused of gathering secret information about Uralvagonzavod, a military equipment facility. The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the charges, calling them "false and baseless" and demanding his immediate release. The US government, which designated him "wrongfully detained," continues to seek his release. Gershkovich, the first US journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

    Russian prosecutors have announced that Evan Gershkovich, a US journalist for the Wall Street Journal, will face trial in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg, where he was detained more than a year ago. Gershkovich, 32, has been accused of working for the CIA, gathering secret information on the Uralvagonzavod facility, which produces and repairs military equipment. This facility, located about 100 kilometers north of Yekaterinburg in Nizhny Tagil, plays a crucial role in supplying tanks for Russia’s war in Ukraine and has been sanctioned by Western countries.

    The Wall Street Journal has categorically rejected these allegations, calling them "false and baseless." In a joint statement, the newspaper’s publisher, Almar Latour, and editor-in-chief, Emma Tucker, demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release, describing the impending trial as a "sham" and condemning Russia’s actions as "repugnant and disgusting." They emphasized that Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained for 441 days simply for doing his job as a journalist.

    The detained journalist
    Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in a portrait supplied by his newspaper [The Wall Street Journal via Reuters]

    Gershkovich was arrested on March 29th, 2023, in Yekaterinburg, about 1,400 kilometers east of Moscow, and has since been held in custody on charges of espionage. The United States designated him "wrongfully detained" in April 2023, with President Joe Biden calling his detention "totally illegal." US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated Washington’s stance, stating, "Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime." Miller added that the US government will continue its efforts to secure Gershkovich’s release.

    The trial announcement comes amid a broader context of heightened tensions and repressive measures in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. The arrest of Gershkovich marks the first time a US journalist has been accused of spying in Russia since the Cold War. His detention and the subsequent charges are seen as part of Russia’s increasingly stringent crackdown on freedom of speech and press freedoms.

    The potential for a prisoner swap has been suggested, with Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledging the US's "energetic steps" to secure Gershkovich’s release. However, Putin emphasized that such negotiations should be conducted discreetly and based on reciprocity, hinting at the complexities involved in any potential exchange.

    If convicted, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison. His trial, for which no date has been set, will be closely watched as a barometer of US-Russia relations and the ongoing struggle for press freedom in an increasingly authoritarian environment. The international community, particularly journalistic and human rights organizations, continues to call for his immediate release, condemning his detention as a grave injustice and an attack on press freedom. As the case unfolds, it will undoubtedly draw significant attention and scrutiny, underscoring the perilous landscape for journalists working in hostile environments.

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