Russia to try detained US journalist Evan Gershkovich in secret

Mr Gershkovich waves and smiles from behind a glass screen, with a security person nearby
Evan Gershkovich, seen here in court in Moscow in April, will be tried in secret - Tatyana Makeyeva/Reuters

Evan Gershkovich, the American journalist detained by Russia on espionage charges, will be tried in secret next week, the court overseeing his case has said.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent was arrested in March 2023 on a reporting trip to Yekaterinburg and has been held in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison since.

He was the first Western journalist since the Soviet era to be arrested for alleged spying.

Last week, Russia’s prosecutor-general accused him of working for the CIA and “collecting secret information” about tank maker Uralvagonzavod in the Sverdlovsk region where he was arrested.

The United States said the charges had “zero credibility” and the Wall Street Journal called Russia’s announcement “outrageous”.

Moscow had not previously provided any public details of its case against Mr Gershkovich, saying only that he was “caught red-handed”.

Mr Gershkovich makes a heart gesture with both hands held to his chest, from behind glass in court
The US said the charges against Mr Gershkovich were baseless - Natalia Kolesnikova/Getty

On Monday, the Sverdlovsk regional court said in a statement that the trial would start on June 26 and be held behind closed doors. The 32-year-old faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Mr Gershkovich, his family, his employer and Washington have denied all charges against him since the start, insisting that the journalist was simply doing his job.

“Evan Gershkovich is facing a false and baseless charge. Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” Emma Tucker, the WSJ’s editor-in-chief, said in a joint statement with the paper’s executives.

Washington last year declared Mr Gershkovich “wrongfully detained”, which effectively means the White House regards him as a political hostage.

“We have been clear from the start that Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place,” Matthew Miller, the US state department spokesman, told journalists last week.

“The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows that they are false. He should be released immediately,” he added.

Washington has accused Moscow of arresting its citizens on baseless charges to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of Russians convicted abroad.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, said in February he would like to see Gershkovich freed as part of a prisoner exchange and that talks were ongoing.

But Putin made clear he wanted any deal to involve the release of a Russian jailed in Germany for killing a Chechen dissident.

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