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Moscow court rejects Evan Gershkovich's appeal, keeping him in jail until at least June 30

The Wall Street Journal reporter was detained in late March 2023 while on a reporting trip and has spent over a year behind bars.
APTOPIX Russia US Journalist
Posted at 2:20 PM, Apr 23, 2024

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will remain jailed on espionage charges until at least late June, after a Moscow court on Tuesday rejected his appeal that sought to end his pretrial detention.

The 32-year-old U.S. citizen was detained in late March 2023 while on a reporting trip and has spent over a year behind bars. Last month, his arrest was extended until June 30 in a ruling he and his defense lawyers later appealed. The appeal was heard by a Moscow appellate court on Tuesday and rejected.

In the courtroom on Tuesday, Gerhskovich, clad in a white T-shirt and an open checked shirt, looked relaxed, at times laughing and chatting with members of his legal team.

His arrest in the city of Yekaterinburg rattled journalists in Russia, where authorities have not detailed what, if any, evidence they have to support the espionage charges.

Gershkovich and his employer have denied the allegations, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained.

Analysts have pointed out that Moscow may be using jailed Americans as bargaining chips in soaring U.S.-Russian tensions over the Kremlin’s military operation in Ukraine. At least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia in recent years — including WNBA star Brittney Griner — have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.

In December, the U.S. State Department said it had made a significant offer to secure the release of Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, another American jailed in Russia on espionage charges, which it said Russia had rejected.

Officials did not describe the offer, although Russia has been said to be seeking the release of Vadim Krasikov, who was given a life sentence in Germany in 2021 for the killing in Berlin of Zelimkhan “Tornike” Khangoshvili, a 40-year-old Georgian citizen of Chechen descent who had fought Russian troops in Chechnya and later claimed asylum in Germany.

President Vladimir Putin, asked this year about releasing Gershkovich, appeared to refer to Krasikov by pointing to a man imprisoned by a U.S. ally for “liquidating a bandit” who had allegedly killed Russian soldiers during separatist fighting in Chechnya.

Beyond that hint, Russian officials have kept mum about the talks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeatedly said that while “certain contacts” on swaps continue, “they must be carried out in absolute silence.”

Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB.

Daniloff was released without charge 20 days later in a swap for an employee of the Soviet Union’s U.N. mission who was arrested by the FBI, also on spying charges.