Russia formally charges US journalist in Moscow with espionage

Arrest of Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich has brought relations between the US and Russia to a new low

Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal correspondent jailed in Moscow, was formally charged with espionage on Friday, according to Russian state media.

The Tass news agency cited an unidentified law enforcement source about the steps taken by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, and said Gershkovich had denied the accusation.

“The FSB investigation charged Gershkovich with espionage in the interests of his country,” the news agency quoted its source as saying, echoing the statement issued by Russia’s security police agency at the time the 31-year-old reporter was first detained.

“He categorically denied all accusations and stated that he was engaged in journalistic activities in Russia,” the source was quoted as saying. The source declined to comment further because the case was marked “top secret,” according to Tass.


No other details were immediately available and there was no immediate comment from The Wall Street Journal. Russia’s Interfax news agency also reported that Gershkovich had been charged.

The official charge had been expected ever since the American reporter was detained last week in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg and brought to the Lefortovo prison in Moscow. The Russian authorities accused him of espionage, allegations that the Wall Street Journal and US officials have vehemently rejected.

The arrest of Gershkovich, the American-born son of Soviet émigrés and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal since January 2022, brought relations between the United States and Russia to a new low. The two sides have been wrangling over when a US Consular official will be allowed to visit Gershkovich, with John Kirby, a White House spokesman, telling a news conference on Thursday it was “inexcusable” that Russia has not provided consular access.

The Biden administration has lobbied for Gershkovich’s immediate release. And on Friday, Senate leaders released a bipartisan statement demanding the same and condemning Russia’s “continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices.”

“Russian authorities have failed to present any credible evidence to justify their fabricated charges,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrat majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, said in the statement.

They described Gershkovich’s arrest as a “wrongful detention,” echoing comments made by Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week. Blinken said the State Department was still in the process of making the formal designation, which would allow the U.S. government to escalate efforts to secure the reporter’s release.

The statement from the Senate leaders followed calls from dozens of international news media and press freedom organisations for Gershkovich to be freed. Hundreds of independent Russian journalists and civil society members have also signed a public letter denouncing the accusations against him as “preposterous and unjust,” noting that Russian security services had provided no evidence for their claims.

On Thursday, the National Press Club recognised Gershkovich with the organisation’s highest press freedom award.

“Journalism is not a crime and Evan should not be jailed for his profession — he should be honoured for it,” the organisation said. It vowed to “continue to advocate not only for Evan, but also for all the foreign journalists working from Russia and who had expected that their non-Russian passports would provide them some protection.” - This article originally appeared in The New York Times