Jailed US Reporter’s Defense Appeals His Arrest In Russia

Lawyers representing an American reporter, who was recently arrested in Russia on espionage charges, have appealed his arrest.

Evan Gershkovich, a 31-year-old reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was detained last week in Yekaterinburg, the fourth-largest city in Russia. This incident marks the first time a U.S. correspondent has been detained on espionage accusations since the Cold War.

In its response to the incident, the Wall Street Journal stated that it “vehemently denies” the charges against Gershkovich. The outlet has also demanded he be released from prison.

During a hearing in the case on Thursday, Moscow’s Lefortovsky District court quickly ruled that the journalist be held behind bars for two months pending an investigation into his supposed crime.

On Monday, the court announced that Gershkovich’s defense had filed an appeal against the charges, according to Russian news agencies. There has not been an announcement as of yet regarding the date for the appeals hearing.

Gershkovich is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, an institution that dates back to the czarist era and “has been a terrifying symbol of repression since Soviet times,” according to the Associated Press.

The American journalist has been accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory, according to the charges levied by Russia’s Federal Security Service — the successor to the Soviet-era KGB, with the new organization being known by the acronym FSB.

While the Kremlin claims that Gershkovich was caught in the act red-handed, they have refused to provide details about his alleged crime.

U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, have demanded Russia release Gershkovich.

“Let him go,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday when asked if he had a message for Russia about the journalist’s arrest.

On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Russian counterpart in a rare phone call between the top diplomats since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the call, Blinken urged the Russian diplomat to push for the immediate release of Gershkovich — and also demanded the release of another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan.

Americans have long been calling for the Biden administration to negotiate Whelan’s release, especially after it was revealed that the administration had negotiated the release of basketball player Brittney Griner, trading her for an arms dealer known as the “Merchant of Death.”

While Whelan — a former U.S. Marine — has been imprisoned in Russia for more than four years, Griner was only locked up for roughly ten months before the Biden administration negotiated for her release.

During a Monday appearance on “Fox & Friends First,” New York Times reporter Michael Schwirtz discussed the detainment of his friend Gershkovich, as well as the growing calls for U.S. officials to secure Whelan’s release.