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US reporter held by Russia on spying charges to stay in jail

US reporter held by Russia on spying charges to stay in jail
Copyright NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP or licensors
Copyright NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP or licensors
By Euronews
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A Moscow court leaves unchanged earlier decision to arrest Wall Street Journal's employee Evan Gershkovich, rejecting his appeal.

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A Russian judge on Tuesday upheld the detention of jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on spying charges as part of a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on dissent and press freedom amid the war in Ukraine. He and the US government vehemently deny the allegations.

The Wall Street Journal reporter is the first U.S. correspondent since the Cold War to be detained in Russia on spying allegations and his arrest rattled journalists in the country and elicited outrage in the West. Dozens of journalists crowded into the courtroom to catch a glimpse of Gershkovich, who looked calm as he stood inside a glass cage to appeal his detention.

Russia’s Federal Security Service detained the 31-year-old in Yekaterinburg in March and accused him of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.

Gershkovich, his employer and the US government deny he was involved in spying and have demanded his release.

“Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering. Any suggestions otherwise are false," the Journal has said in a statement.

Last week the US officially declared that Gershkovich was “wrongfully detained”.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. Russian lawyers have said past investigations into espionage cases took a year to 18 months, during which time he could have little contact with the outside world.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 18, 2023.Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

He has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, which dates from the czarist era and has been a terrifying symbol of repression since Soviet times.

The arrest comes at a moment of bitter tensions between the West and Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine and as the Kremlin intensifies a crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups.

The sweeping campaign of repression is unprecedented since the Soviet era. Activists say it often means the very profession of journalism is criminalized, along with the activities of ordinary Russians who oppose the war.

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