Mar 29, 2024 - World

Evan Gershkovich timeline: Wrongfully detained by Russia for one year

Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on February 20

Evan Gershkovich stands inside a defendants' cage before a hearing at the Moscow City Court on Feb. 20. Photo: Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Russian authorities wrongfully detaining Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.

Why it matters: Gershkovich has now spent 366 days behind bars on sham charges, with no indication of when he may be freed or whether a trial will be held. He is the the first U.S. journalist that Russia has arrested and accused of espionage since the Cold War.

The latest: In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, his family wrote that the past year "has been unimaginable for our family in so many ways."

  • "We will continue fighting for Evan's freedom, whatever it takes," they added.

Here's a timeline of how we got here.

Gershkovich's arrest in Russia

Gershkovich was detained in the city of Yekaterinburg by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29, 2023. At the time of his arrest, he was reporting on the financial strain on the Russian economy from its invasion of Ukraine.

  • The FSB formally charged him with espionage on April 7, ordering he be held in custody until May 29, 2023. He faces 20 years in prison if convicted.
  • The Russian government provided no evidence to back up its claim. Gershkovich, the WSJ and the Biden administration have categorically denied the spying accusations.
  • On April 10, the U.S. State Department officially declared Gershkovich to be "wrongfully detained" by Russia.
  • The rare designation is typically given when a U.S. citizen's detention is illegitimate on the grounds of being innocent of the charges against them, being denied due process, or being used as a bargaining chip by a hostile regime, CBS News reported.
  • About a week later, a Russian court upheld his detention, rejecting his lawyers' request to release him on bail or house arrest.

Held without a trial, fighting for release

Russian authorities repeatedly extended Gershkovich's pre-trial detention, which the 32-year-old has spent in Moscow's infamous Lefortovo prison, known for its harsh conditions.

  • A Russian court in May 2023 extended Gershkovich's detention for the first time.
  • Russian authorities proceeded to extend his detention again in August and November.
  • U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy has visited Gershkovich several times during his imprisonment. In September, she said he remained "strong and is keeping up with the news."
  • In October, a Russian court rejected an appeal by Gershkovich's lawyers for the third time.

U.S. and Russia discuss prisoner swap

President Biden said last summer that the U.S. intended to pursue a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia in order to bring Gershkovich home, after the Kremlin signaled it might be open to an exchange.

  • In December, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a "dialogue" was underway to secure the release Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in Russian detention since 2018.
  • The State Department said that same month that it had put forth a "new and significant proposal" to secure the release of both Gershkovich and Whelan, but the Kremlin had rejected it.
  • Putin said in a February interview that Russia is open to discussing Gershkovich's release.

Russia extends detention as anniversary nears

Gershkovich's lawyers' efforts to secure his release have been repeatedly stonewalled by the Russian court.

Gershkovich's parents attended Biden's State of the Union address in early March. Biden said the U.S. is working "around the clock" to bring home Gershkovich and Whelan.

  • The Wall Street Journal and others have continued to raise awareness of his case and push for his release, including through a #IStandWithEvan campaign.
  • Earlier this week, a Russian court extended his detention until at least June 30.

In a statement Friday, President Biden called Gershkovich's detention "wholly unjust and illegal."

  • "As I have told Evan's parents ... We will continue working every day to secure his release. We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia's appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips. And we will continue to stand strong against all those who seek to attack the press or target journalists—the pillars of free society."
WSJ front cover
Front cover of the Wall Street Journal on March 29. Photo: Wall Street Journal/X
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