Russia arrests US journalist on espionage allegations
An American journalist has been detained on suspicion of spying for Washington, Russia said Thursday (30 March), drawing immediate outrage from the West with the White House condemning the allegation as “ridiculous”.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is believed to be the first foreign journalist held for spying in post-Soviet Russia, and his arrest is expected to escalate the Kremlin’s confrontation with the West amid Moscow’s assault on Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal said it was deeply concerned for Gershkovich’s safety and denied the claim from the FSB security service that he was “spying in the interests of the American government”.
The 31-year-old journalist’s detention, on charges that carry a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars, is also a serious escalation in the Kremlin’s sweeping crackdown on the media.
US officials said they were in touch with Gershkovich’s family and that the State Department had requested consular access.
The White House condemned the arrest and warned Americans not to travel to Russia, and those now inside the country to leave for their own safety.
“The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the detention of Mr. Gershkovich in the strongest terms,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.
“The charge of espionage is ridiculous,” she later added.
The European Union on Thursday condemned Russia’s “systematic disregard” of press freedom.
“Journalists must be allowed to exercise their profession freely and deserve protection,” EU diplomacy chief Josep Borrell tweeted.