Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal Russia correspondent arrested in that country on espionage allegations almost two months ago, has had his detention on those charges extended by a Moscow Court until at least August 30. That would make at least five months of captivity in Russia’s notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow for the journalist turned pawn in a geopolitical dispute.
Last month, the US State Department issued an official statement on the matter saying Evan Gershkovich is being, “wrongfully detained.”
State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said, “We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”
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At the end of April, 332 foreign correspondents who reported in Russia sent a joint letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanding Evan Gershkovich’s release.
“Evan Gershkovich has a long and impressive record of journalistic work. We have no doubt that the only purpose and intention of his work was to inform his readers about the current reality in Russia. Seeking out information, even if it means upsetting political interests, does not make Evan a criminal or a spy, it makes him a journalist. Journalism is not a crime,” read the letter.
“The arrest sends a disturbing and dangerous signal about Russia’s disregard for independent media and shows indifference to the fate of a young, talented and honest journalist.”
The 31 year old American citizen was arrested at the end of March in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg for what Russia’s Federal Security Service said was attempting to gather state secrets about the military-industrial complex. This was the first time since the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago that an American journalist was arrested in Russia and accused of being a spy. Evan Gershkovich is probably a victim of the recent tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine that began in February 2022.
American politicians and leaders quickly came to the journalist’s defense. Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer and the Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell in a rare moment of bipartisanship issued a joint statement saying, “We strongly condemn the wrongful detention of US citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and demand the immediate release of this internationally known and respected independent journalist.”
“Let there be no mistake, they added, “journalism is not a crime.”
While born in New York, Evan Gershkovich’s parents were both Russian Jews who fled that country in the 1970s fleeing persecution.