Russia again extends detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich after a year behind bars

A Russian court on Tuesday again extended the detention of Evan Gershkovich, an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal who was arrested a year ago on what the U.S. decries as bogus espionage charges. 

Moscow City Court officials said Gershkovich will remain in custody until at least June 30. The 32-year-old U.S. citizen was arrested and detained on March 29, 2023, while on a reporting trip to the city of Yekaterinburgand and has been behind bars ever since. He is being held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which is notorious for its harsh conditions.

Photos from the courtroom released by court officials showed Gershkovich, clad in a black checkered shirt, smiling from the glass defendant’s box, according to the Associated Press. 

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

U.S. ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy attended the court hearing on Tuesday and reiterated that ‘the accusations against Evan are categorically untrue.’

‘They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction,’ Tracy told reporters outside of the courthouse. ‘No justification for Evan’s continued detention, and no explanation as to why Evan doing his job as a journalist constituted a crime. Evan’s case is not about evidence, due process or rule of law. It is about using American citizens as pawns to achieve political ends.’

In a statement issued through the State Department, Tracy further called on Russian authorities to release Gershkovich and U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan. 

‘Evan has displayed remarkable resilience and strength in the face of this grim situation, Tracy said. ‘But it is time for the Russian government to let Evan go. If the Kremlin has any desire to salvage Russia’s integrity and international esteem, they should do what is right and release Evan and Paul immediately.’ 

Whelan has been detained for more than five years. He was assaulted by a fellow prisoner laboring in a Russian penal colony late last year. He reportedly told the BBC in December during a call from his prison cell that he feels ‘abandoned’ by his country, which he noted has engaged in other prisoner swaps with Russia in the last several years, including female basketball player Brittney Griner.

‘It’s unfathomable to me that they’ve left me behind,’ Whelan said, reportedly referencing both the current Biden administration and former Trump administration.

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 Griner, have been exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S.

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.

Fox News’ Nikolas Lanum and the Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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