Washington — A Russian court has extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich for at least another three months, Russian media outlets said Tuesday, the latest setback in efforts to secure his release.
News agencies TASS and Interfax reported that Lefortovsky District Court in Moscow ordered Gershkovich held until Aug. 30, citing the court’s press service. Gershkovich faces espionage charges that the U.S. has denounced as fabricated, and the State Department has determined he is being “wrongfully detained,” a designation that requires the U.S. government to work to secure his release.
The 31-year-old correspondent was arrested in March in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and soon charged with spying. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed he was “caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information” and “using his journalistic status as a cover for illegal actions,” a charge strenuously denied by Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and U.S. officials. He appealed his pretrial detention in April, which was rejected by the court.
His detention has sparked an uproar in the U.S., with congressional leaders of both parties issuing rare statements demanding his immediate release. President Biden has condemned his continued imprisonment and spoke to his family in April. The U.S. ambassador to Russia visited Gershkovich in the prison where he is being held last month.
Gershkovich is the first U.S. journalist to be detained for alleged spying in Russia since the Cold War. The detention of U.S. citizens has become a key point of leverage for the Kremlin as it seeks to maintain its war effort in Ukraine while under crippling sanctions by the West. WNBA star Brittney Griner was released in a prisoner exchange with the U.S. last year, a deal that saw a notorious Russian arms dealer being handed over to Moscow.
The U.S. issued new sanctions in April targeting the Russian security service, known as the FSB, for their role in unlawfully detaining Americans.
At least one other American is currently being wrongfully detained in Russia, according to the U.S. Paul Whelan, an American businessman, has been held behind bars since 2018 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges. He told CNN over the weekend he believes the “wheels are turning” toward securing his release. Whelan has been left out of the prisoner exchanges that saw Griner and another American, Trevor Reed, go free.
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