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What Does Russia Want with Evan Gershkovich?

United States journalist Evan Gershkovich has been detained on spying charges in Moscow, Russia as part of a crackdown operation on dissent.

The Wall Street Journal reporter, who reported on the Ukraine war from Russia, is the first correspondent from the US since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying allegations. Both Gershkovich and the US government have vehemently denied the allegations.

His arrest has sent shockwaves across the Western world. Several journalists have taken to Twitter to support Gershkovich as Russia doesn’t seem to let him go anytime soon.

Evan Gershkovich Remains Behind Bars

A Russian court upheld the detention of Gershkovich as he appealed his case standing inside a glass chamber. Dozens of journalists crowded into the courtroom to watch their fellow try to fight a legal battle against Russian forces.

Defendant’s lawyers said that he had a fighting spirit and was working out, and that he knew that people were supporting him.

US Condemns the Detention 

The US has strongly claimed that Gershkovich was “wrongfully detained”. US President Joe Biden has called his imprisonment “totally illegal”. More than 30 news organizations have signed a letter to the Russian ambassador in the US, denouncing the “unfounded espionage charges”. 

The US ambassador to Russia visited Gershkovich on Monday and confirmed that he was “in good health and remains strong”.

Spying Allegations

Russia’s FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, accusing him of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.

Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Russian lawyers have said past investigations into espionage cases took a year to 18 months, during which time the suspect might have little contact with the outside world.

The American reporter has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which dates back to the czarist era and has been a symbol of repression since Soviet times.

Russian Crackdown

Gershkovich was arrested at a moment of bitter tensions between the West and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine as Russian forces intensify a crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists, and civil society groups.

Just over a month ago, a Russian court sentenced a single father to 2 years in prison over some social media posts criticizing the Ukraine war. In addition, his 13-year-old daughter was sent to a “rehabilitation centre” for minors.

On Monday, a Russian court convicted opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza of treason for publicly denouncing the Ukraine invasion and sentenced him to 25 years in prison.

Another US national, Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges, which his family and the US government denied.

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