Evan Gershkovich to stand trial in Russia on charges of spying for CIA

June 13, 2024
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American journalist Evan Gershkovich will stand trial in Russia on charges of spying for the CIA, prosecutors announced Thursday.

Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, was arrested in March 2023 on what many in the West consider trumped-up charges by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s repressive government.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Putin to release Gershkovich, 32, who was arrested in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg.

After more than a year in pretrial detention, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office said Thursday that Gershkovich would be sent to the Sverdlovsk Regional Court, in the city where he was arrested, for trial at an unspecified date.

The prosecutor’s office said that Gershkovich had been charged with espionage following an investigation by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB.

It said he had “acted on instructions from the CIA” and “collected secret information” about the mass tank manufacturer UralVagonZavod “for the production and repair of military equipment.” It added that “illegal actions were carried out by Gershkovich in compliance with careful measures of secrecy.”

Russian authorities have presented no evidence to support their case.

Gershkovich’s case has become a campaigning issue for journalists and government officials throughout the West, who see it as emblematic of the war Putin has waged against freedom of speech both domestic and foreign.

The Wall Street Journal and U.S. officials have repeatedly rejected the charges as baseless. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy said at a hearing in March that “the accusations against Evan are categorically untrue.”

Gershkovich has been kept in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, which is known for its harsh conditions. His multiple appeals have been rejected in court, and a previous announcement said that his pretrial detention had been extended until at least June 30.

During these court appearances, he often smiles and appears in good spirits. But his detention has weighed on his family.

“It has been hard,” his father, Mikhail Gershkovich, told NBC News in March to mark the anniversary of his arrest. “He spent all four seasons there, he spent his birthday and all the holidays. We want him home as soon as possible.”

His parents left the then-Soviet Union for the U.S. during the Cold War. He and his older sister grew up speaking Russian at home, and the family calls him “Vanya,” the diminutive for his Russian name, Ivan. 

His interest in Russia motivated his decision to move there in 2017 to work as a journalist.

But everything changed when Russia staged its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in Feb. 2022, the family said. Like many other foreign reporters wary of Russia’s tightening grip on press freedom, Gershkovich moved abroad, albeit regularly returning for reporting trips. 

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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