Mar 26, 2024 - World

Russia extends detention of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich again

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in a defendant's cage in a Moscow courtroom on March 26.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in a defendant's cage in a Moscow courtroom on March 26. Photo: Moscow City Court Press Service/Anadolu via Getty Images

A Russian court ordered Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Tuesday to remain in pretrial detention on espionage charges until at least late June.

Why it matters: Gershkovich has already spent almost a year behind bars without having been convicted of a crime. The newspaper has vehemently denied and denounced the allegations against him, and the U.S. considers him wrongfully detained by Russia.

  • It's at least the fifth time the court has extended Gershkovich's pretrial detention.

Context: Gershkovich was accused last year of trying to obtain classified information and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

  • At the time of his arrest, he was reporting on the long-term financial strain on the Russian economy from its invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia in March 2022 made it a crime for journalists to report information about the invasion that the Kremlin does not want its public to know.

The big picture: Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed in December that there was a "dialogue" underway for a potential prisoner swap with the U.S. to secure the release of Gershkovich, as well as the wrongfully detained former Marine Paul Whelan.

  • In recent prisoner swaps, Moscow has received international criminals in exchange for Washington securing the release of Americans accused of committing minor infractions.
  • For example, WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested after authorities found a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage, was exchanged in December 2022 for Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death."

Zoom out: The U.S. State Department has repeatedly warned Americans to not travel to Russia over concerns that authorities there are specifically targeting U.S. citizens for arrest.

  • Gershkovich isn't the only U.S. journalist who is detained in Russia.
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who is a dual U.S.-Russian citizen, has also been in detention for months after being accused of failing to register as a foreign agent.
  • Authorities have also detained dozens of independent Russian journalists for covering dissent protests.

Go deeper: Putin's weaknesses, exposed

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