Wall Street Journal reporter Ivan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia for espionage, the first time a US journalist has been detained on suspicion of spying for Moscow since the Cold War.
According to Russia’s top security service, the FSB, the Russian Federal Security Service stopped the illegal activities of US citizen Ivan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of the Wall Street Journal. In a statement Thursday.
We strongly dispute the allegations made by the FSB and call for the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Ivan Gershkovich.
“We express our solidarity with Ivan and his family,” said the US newspaper.
The FSB said that Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains. It claimed he was “attempting to obtain confidential information” about “the activities of an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex”.
The FSB said the reporter, accredited by Russia’s foreign ministry, was “working on the orders of the American side” and “attempting to obtain classified information.”
Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine and the former Soviet Union, according to his biography on the Wall Street Journal’s website. He has worked for Agence France-Presse, The Moscow Times and The New York Times.
Gershkovich’s arrest comes amid heightened tensions between the US and Russia over President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The detention of other Americans has led to a long and complex dispute between Washington and Moscow.
As part of a prisoner exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, Britney Griner, a star basketball player who was detained on drug smuggling charges in February 2022, was released in December.
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However, the US could not secure the release of another American, Paul Whelan. In December 2018, Russian authorities detained former Marine Whelan in a Moscow hotel on the suspicion that he was involved in an intelligence operation. He is a US, Irish, British, and Canadian citizen. In 2020 he was sentenced to 16 years in a Russian prison after what US officials called an unfair trial.
The US continues to campaign for his release. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said earlier this month that a “serious proposal” was being put to Kremlin officials.
In another move by Washington, the Justice Department announced criminal charges against Sergei Vladimirovich Cherkasov, a Russian citizen who entered the United States under false identities and allegedly gathered intelligence before Russia invaded Ukraine.
The detention of Gershkovich also marks a significant step forward in Russia’s clampdown on the media.
Global news organizations, including CNN, temporarily suspended broadcasts from the country after Russian President Vladimir Putin made spreading “fake” information about the Russian military and the Ukrainian invasion a crime.
Gershkovich is the first journalist to be charged with Russian espionage since 1986, when reporter Nick Daniloff was arrested on similar charges while working for US News and World Report newspapers and magazines. Before the Reagan administration negotiated his release from a Russian prison, he spent weeks behind bars.