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Russia extends journalist Gershkovich’s pre-trial detention

MOSCOW — A Moscow court extended the pretrial detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich through March 30, meaning that he will have spent at least a year behind bars before his trial begins.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appears in a court in Moscow on April 18, 2023. (Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

Gershkovich, the 32-year-old American son of Jewish immigrants from the Soviet Union, has been held on espionage charges since March 29, 2023, when he was arrested by Russian agents while on a reporting trip in the city of Yekaterinburg.

Gershkovich, the US government and the Wall Street Journal deny the allegations.

The US government considers him to be wrongfully held.

The State Dept. revealed in early December that an offer made to Russia to trade prisoners for Gershkovich and Whelan was turned down.

The WSJ condemned the court’s decision, which was made in a closed hearing on Jan. 26.

“It is chilling and outrageous that Evan has now spent 10 months of his life in prison, simply for doing his job,” their statement said.

“While these are clearly sham proceedings about patently false charges, we intend to appeal today’s ruling, as we have in the past. Journalism is not a crime, and we continue to demand Evan’s immediate release.”

Gershkovich is the first American reporter held on espionage charges in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War more than 30 years ago.

At his end-of-year press conference in December, Russian president Vladimir Putin made his first public remarks on the jailed journalist, saying that Russia hopes to reach an agreement to release Gershkovich and US Marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in a Russian prison since 2018.

“It is not that we have refused to return them,” Putin said during the four-hour press conference.

“We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both sides.”

“It is not easy,” Putin added. “I will not go into details, but in general it seems to me that we are speaking a language that we both understand. I hope that we will find a solution.”

If convicted of espionage, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in a penal colony. No trial date has been set.

The US ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, visited Gershkovich two weeks ago in what has now become a monthly meeting.

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