A Russian judge upheld the detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich on Tuesday following his arrest on spying charges amid the Kremlin’s sweeping crackdown on press freedom during the war in Ukraine.
After Gershkovich appeared in court, a Moscow City Court judge denied the reporter’s appeal of his detention. The judge ruled that Gershkovich – Russia correspondent for the Wall Street Journal – is to stay in jail awaiting an investigation and trial. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years.
Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, was detained after Russia’s Federal Security Service accused Gershkovich of spying on behalf of the U.S. government, marking the first time an American journalist has been arrested in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War.
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WSJ, US officials call for reporter’s release
The U.S. government, Gershkovich and the Journal have all vehemently deny the allegations.
“Evan is wrongfully detained and the charges of espionage against him are false. We demand his immediate release and are doing everything in our power to secure it,” said Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Journal, and Emma Tucker, editor in chief of the Journal, in a statement following Gershkovich’s hearing.
The U.S. declared last week that Gershkovich was “wrongfully detained” and pressed Russia to grant consular access to the journalist.
“We’re deeply concerned by the news that Russia will continue to wrongfully detain Evan following a sham judicial proceeding – and that’s what we saw earlier today,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.
The Biden administration continues to engage with Russia “through every available channel” to bring home Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who has been detained in Russia for four years, she said.
Ambassador, lawyers visit WSJ reporter
The U.S. ambassador to Russia and Gershkovich’s lawyers were granted consular access Monday, according to the statement from Latour and Tucker, which was the first visit he’s received since he was detained.
U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy, who attended Tuesday’s hearing, said after her visit that Gershkovich “is in good health and remains strong”
Gershkovich has been held in Lefortovo prison, which is notorious for its harsh conditions.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week that a possible prisoner exchange for Gershkovich could occur, but only after his trial.
The detention of Gershkovich comes amid bitter tensions between the West and the Kremlin over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its growing crackdown of activists, journalists and civil society groups.
Contributing: The Associated Press, Michael Collins
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Russian judge rules American journalist Evan Gershkovich to remain in jail on spying charges