Updated Apr 18, 2023 - World

Russian court upholds detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appears in Moscow court on April 18. Photo: Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A Russian court on Tuesday upheld the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who the U.S. has said was wrongfully detained when Russian authorities arrested him last month on espionage charges.

The big picture: Gershkovich appeared at the hearing in a defendant's glass cage — his first public appearance since being arrested. The court denied his lawyers' request to release him on bail or house arrest. A day earlier, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said she was allowed to visit Gershkovich for the first time since he was detained.

What they're saying: "He is in good health and remains strong," Tracy said on social media on Monday. "We reiterate our call for his immediate release."

  • Tracy said she visited Gershkovich at the infamous Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, which has held hundreds of political prisoners since its construction in the late 19th century.
  • When asked what message Tracy conveyed to Gershkovich, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters in a briefing later Monday: "We conveyed to him how hard we're going to continue to work his case and how hard we're going to continue to work to get him released."

The big picture: Russia has faced widespread backlash for the arrest of Gershkovich.

  • The arrest marked the first time a U.S. journalist was detained in an espionage case in Russia since the Cold War, per the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • On Monday, the U.S. and more than 40 countries signed a statement denouncing Gershkovich's arrest and calling for his release and the end of Russia's clampdown on freedom of expression in the country, according to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

The Department of State officially determined last week that Russian authorities wrongfully detained Gershkovich, who has worked at the WSJ since January 2022 as part of the paper's Moscow bureau and in part covered Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

  • Two days before his arrest, the Wall Street Journal published a story by Gershkovich and Berlin-based reporter Georgi Kantchev about the invasion's long-term financial strain on the Russian economy.
  • Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor organization to the Soviet Union's KGB, accused Gershkovich of trying to obtain classified information "on the instructions of the United States."
  • The WSJ has "vehemently" denied the FSB claims and called for Gershkovich's immediate release.

Between the lines: Russia's arrest of Gershkovich marked a continuation of the Kremlin's crackdown on independent media, human rights organizations and general freedom of speech and dissent within the county.

  • The crackdown, which started years before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, significantly ramped up after the start of the war in late February 2022.
  • On Monday, a Russian court convicted Kremlin critic and Washington Post opinions contributor Vladimir Kara-Murza of treason for criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin's government and the invasion of Ukraine and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.
  • The U.S. also recently again called for the release of "wrongfully detained" U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia since December 2018 on charges of espionage — allegations that the U.S. rejects.

Go deeper: Russia detains WSJ reporter in first spy charges against U.S. journalist since Cold War

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comment from NSC spokesperson John Kirby and additional details from Tuesday's court hearing in Russia.

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