Russia detains Wall Street Journal reporter, plans to hold him until late May

Key Points
  • Russian authorities detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich.
  • Russia is one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom, according to watchdogs.
An undated ID photo of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich. The reporter for The Wall Street Journal has been detained in Russia on espionage charges.
- | Afp | Getty Images

Russian authorities plan to detain an American journalist who works for The Wall Street Journal for two months.

The reporter, Evan Gershkovich, was detained on suspicion of espionage, according to Russia's Federal Security Service. Shortly after, a Moscow court ordered Gershkovich's detention to last until May 29, according to the Journal, which cited local reports.

Gershkovich's detention escalates already high tensions between the United States and Russia. The U.S. government is spending billions to support Ukraine's defense against invading Russian forces.

Officials from the White House and the State Department spoke with the Journal Wednesday night regarding Gershkovich's detention, according to a statement from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. The Biden administration has also been in contact with Gershkovich's family, and the State Department has been in direct contact with the Russian government, Jean-Pierre said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement his agency has been seeking "consular access" to Gershkovich.

"In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin's continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices," Blinken said.

The FSB alleged Gershkovich "was collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the military-industrial complex of Russia." Gershkovich pleaded not guilty to espionage charges, according to Russian state news agency Tass. If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.

Daniil Berman, the lawyer of arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, speaks to journalists near the Lefortovsky court, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 30, 2023. Russia's top security agency says an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal has been arrested on espionage charges. 
Alexander Zemlianichenko | AP

The Wall Street Journal adamantly denied the charges, adding that it sought "the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter."

"We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family," the Journal said.

Since January 2022, Gershkovich has worked for the Journal in Moscow. Before that, he reported in the country for AFP and The Moscow Times, according to his LinkedIn account. Prior to that he was a news assistant for The New York Times. 

Gershkovich's most recent article, published Tuesday with a co-byline, was headlined "Russia's Economy Is Starting to Come Undone."

Russia is one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom, according to a 2022 index from Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit advocacy group. It has gotten worse since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, according to the organization.

The country's government has a long history of harassing journalists, including detaining foreigners on spying charges that appear more politically motivated.

Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has overseen a significant crackdown on free speech and political dissent.

Both Blinken and Jean-Pierre stressed the continued importance of heeding the U.S. government's warning with regards to U.S. citizens residing in or traveling to Russia.

"U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as the State Department continues to advise," Jean-Pierre said.