By Biodun Busari
A court in Moscow, the Russian capital, has ruled that Evan Gershkovich, a journalist from the United States Wall Street Journal newspaper should be detained for nearly two months on suspicion of spying for Washington.
According to Reuters, the court ruled that the most serious move against Gershkovich, for being a foreign journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Russia’s FSB security service said earlier on Thursday it had opened a criminal case against a US national on suspicion of espionage and the Kremlin said he had been “caught red-handed”.
Gershkovich, who has been working for the Journal for just over a year, told the court he was not guilty, Reuters said.
His employer said the case against him, believed to be the first criminal case for espionage against a foreign journalist in post-Soviet Russia, was based on a false accusation.
The case will aggravate already terrible relations between Russia and the US, which is Ukraine’s biggest military backer and has imposed sanctions on Moscow to try to persuade it to withdraw its troops.
The FSB accused Gershkovich of gathering information classified as a state secret about a military factory.
It did not name the factory or say where it was but said it had detained the 31-year-old journalist in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg as he was trying to procure secret information.
It did not provide documentary or video evidence of his guilt.
“It has been established that E. Gershkovich, acting on an assignment from the American side, was gathering information classified as a state secret about the activity of one of the enterprises of Russia’s military-industrial complex,” the FSB said.
The Wall Street Journal said in a statement it was “deeply concerned” for Gershkovich’s safety and that it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter”.
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