Evan Gershkovich, a U.S citizen based in Moscow as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has been detained in Russia since March 2023 on espionage charges that he, his newspaper, and the U.S. government all deny. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Gershkovich has lived in Moscow for six years, was accredited with the Russian Foreign Ministry, and was covering Russia as part of The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau. He had reported extensively about Russia’s war in Ukraine, its impact on — and perception within — the country, and the repression of the anti-war movement.
Arrest and detention
On March 30, 2023, Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, announced it had detained Gershkovich on suspicion of spying for the United States. The FSB alleged Gershkovich was trying to obtain classified information related to “the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”
On March 31, CPJ and more than 30 global media organizations and press freedom groups sent a letter to Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the U.S., calling for the immediate release of Gershkovich.
On April 11, the U.S. State Department designated Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” launching a broad U.S. government effort to exert pressure on Russia to free him.
On April 13, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that “the issue of exchanging anyone can be considered after the court issues its verdict specifically on a particular charge.” In Russia, espionage trials can last for more than a year, according to media reports.
The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, has visited Gershkovich in prison at least six times. “He remains cheerful and thankful for the support of family, friends, and everyone who has been following his difficult situation for more than 250 days,” Tracy said after her latest visit on December 15.
“Evan is a thoroughly professional journalist who has been arrested by the FSB on obviously bogus espionage charges. Journalism is not a crime. Evan should be released immediately,” Pjotr Sauer, a reporter for The Guardian newspaper and a friend and former colleague of Gershkovich, told CPJ via messaging app.
Sauer told CPJ in October 2023 that Gershkovich was “doing as well as he could under these very hard circumstances.”
“He is keeping his mind busy by reading books and writing letters to his friends. He is also exercising and doing yoga to keep physically healthy. He will turn 32 later this month in jail. Every day that Evan is in jail is a day too long,” he said.
In October 2023, CPJ emailed the press service of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office requesting comment about Gershkovich but did not receive any replies.