Russian Court Won’t Let U.S. Journalist Go Free

In an appeal submitted to a Russian judge, Wall Street Journal writer Evan Gershkovich argued that he should not be detained in jail pending trial on espionage accusations. 

The judge, however, did not buy his case. 

Gershkovich, a young journalist at 31 years old, is the youngest American to be imprisoned in Russia on espionage suspicions since the end of the cold war. He faces a possible prison term of up to 20 years if proven guilty. 

His lawyers asked the court to release him on a bond of 50 million roubles (roughly $620,000) or place him under home arrest, but their requests were denied. Gershkovich is now being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. 

Many dissidents and prominent prisoners lived in this KGB-run prison during the Soviet era. Tatiana Nozhkina, Gershkovich’s lawyer, told Reuters that her client spends much of his time behind bars immersed in the canon of Russian literature.

U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy visited with Gershkovich on Monday. Since his imprisonment, this was the first time any US diplomats had seen Gershkovich. The United States is once again insisting that Gershkovich be released immediately. 

Representatives from the United States were in court to observe the proceedings and requested regular consular access to Gershkovich. On Monday, the United States and more than 40 other countries released a joint statement condemning Russia’s “efforts to limit and intimidate the media” and expressing concern over the arrest. Russia has denied the charges, and many media outlets and rights groups have called for his release. 

Russia’s authoritarian internal policy directly results from the conflict with Ukraine, which has been ongoing since Moscow’s invasion. 

On Tuesday, Russia’s foreign ministry contacted its American, British, and Canadian counterparts to raise “crude interference in Russia’s affairs and activities that are not compatible with diplomatic status.” 

In 2020, former marine Paul Whelan was convicted of espionage, and the United States government is seeking his release.