A Russian court has extended Wall Street Journal reporter, Evan Gershkovich’s detention by three months after he was accused of spying.
The 31-year-old from New Jersey was arrested on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and charged with espionage which carries a 20-year prison sentence.
He is accused of collecting state secrets about the military-industrial complex by the Federal Security Service (FSB).
A hearing was held Tuesday before a judge at Lefortovo District Court in Moscow who granted the request to extend Gershkovich’s detention until at least August 30 while he awaits trial.
Gershkovich’s parents Ella and Mikhail Gershkovich, who fled the Soviet Union in the 1970s, waited an hour outside the courtroom before they were allowed in and caught their first glimpse of him since he was arrested.
‘We hope he is doing great and that he can be as strong as his mother,’ Gershkovich’s father said before the hearing while his mother wore a ‘Free Evan’ button.
Gershkovich is being held inside Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison, a terrifying symbol of repression that dates back to the czarist era.
He was reportedly working on a story about the Wagner Group, Russia’s infamous mercenary force before his arrest. The FSB accused him of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.
The reporter and the Wall Street Journal both deny the espionage charges, which President Joe Biden called illegal, and the United States has officially deemed him ‘wrongfully detained’. But the Kremlin said Gershkovich, the first US journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War, was caught ‘red-handed’.
The FSB confirmed that Gershkovich was working with press accreditation issued by the Russian foreign ministry.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Gershkovich was using his journalistic credentials as a cover for ‘activities that have nothing to do with journalism’.
Gershkovich had been living in Moscow since 2017 and was working in the Journal’s Moscow bureau covering the war in Ukraine.