Evan Gershkovich is the first reporter for an American news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War and could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty.
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been formally charged with spying in Russia, state-run news agencies have reported today.
Mr. Gershkovich, a US citizen, was arrested last week on espionage charges, which have been called bogus by the West.
He is being held in a pre-trial detention centre at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow and faces up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
The 31-year-old journalist is the first reporter for an American news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War. He “categorically denies” the allegations.
“He… stated that he was engaged in journalistic activities in Russia,” the TASS news agency cited an unidentified source as saying.
The Russian Federal Security Service said on 30 March it had detained an American journalist in the city of Yekaterinburg, and opened an espionage case against him for allegedly collecting “state secrets” about a military complex.
It was reported earlier on Friday that a court in Moscow will hear an appeal against the arrest of Mr. Gershkovich on 18 April.
Reporter for U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich, detained on suspicion of espionage, leaves a court building in Moscow
The hearing will be held behind closed doors since Russia considers information related to the charges as secret, Interfax reported.
The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the charges against Mr. Gershkovich, describing his arrest as “a vicious affront to a free press”.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry repeated earlier claims that the reporter “was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information, using his journalistic status as a cover for illegal actions.”
US President Joe Biden has urged Russia to “let him go” and his arrest has further strained relations between the two countries.
“These espionage charges are ridiculous. The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said last week.
She said there was no reason to believe the charges were accurate and that detaining Americans is a tactic Russia has used for a long time.
Mr. Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since Nicholas Daniloff in 1986.
Mr. Daniloff was released without charges 20 days later in a swap for an employee of the Soviet Union’s United Nations mission who was arrested by the FBI.
In December, American basketball star Brittney Griner was freed after 10 months behind bars in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
But Moscow has said it is too early to talk about a possible prisoner swap for Mr. Gershkovich.
Former US marine Paul Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and Washington have said are baseless.