Factbox-Who is Evan Gershkovich and what does Russia accuse him of?

Updated: Apr 18, 2023, 07:47 UTC

(Reuters) - Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal arrested in Russia on espionage charges, is a 31-year-old American who has reported on Russia for various outlets for six years.

Handout image of reporter for U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich

(Reuters) – A Moscow court was due to hear an appeal by U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich on Tuesday against his arrest and detention on espionage charges.

Who is gershkovich?

Hired by the Wall Street Journal shortly before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Gershkovich had been reporting on Russia for more than five years at the time of his arrest. The 31-year-old is a fluent Russian-speaker, the son of emigres who left the Soviet Union for the United States during the Cold War.

What were the circumstances of his arrest?

The FSB security service said on March 30 it had arrested him for trying to gather secrets about Russia’s military-industrial complex during a trip to Yekaterinburg, 1,400 km (880 miles) east of Moscow. His newspaper said it last heard from him the previous day when he arrived at a steakhouse in the city. He was brought back to the capital and charged with espionage, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He has denied the charge, which is also rejected by his newspaper.

What do the united states and russia say about the case?

President Joe Biden has called Russia’s treatment of Gershkovich “totally illegal”. The United States last week officially designated him as wrongfully detained, effectively saying that the spy charges were bogus and the case was political. The Kremlin says Gershkovich was “caught red-handed”, but Russia has yet to publish any evidence to support that.

Where is he being held?

Gershkovich is in pre-trial detention at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, where the FSB and its predecessor, the Soviet KGB, have traditionally held those suspected of spying or other grave crimes. U.S. ambassador Lynne Tracy was able to visit him there for the first time on Monday but gave few details, except that he was healthy and bearing up well. In a handwritten letter dated April 5 to his parents, Gershkovich said he was reading, writing, taking exercise and “not losing hope”.

What happens next?

Tuesday’s hearing is essentially procedural – about how Gershkovich should be detained as he awaits trial, not about the substance of the charges. Investigators are still working on the details of the case, which could drag on for months or years if the example of fellow American Paul Whelan is anything to go by. Whelan, a former Marine, was arrested in December 2018, held for 18 months in Lefortovo and jailed for 16 years in June 2020 on spying charges. He too is designated by Washington as wrongfully detained.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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