Moscow‘s Lefortovo district court on Thursdayordered US journalist Evan Gershkovich to be arrested on spying charges and held in pre-trial detention until May 29.
According to DailyMail, there was concern for Gershkovich when he failed to make contact with his editorial office.
Russian independent journalist Dmitry Kolezev said he had spoken to Gershkovich before he went to Yekaterinburg and warned him that he would be ‘100% monitored’ from the moment he arrived.
Gershkovich, 31, was detained in Yekaterinburg in the Urals where he was on an assignment for The Wall Street Journal.
Gershkovich told the court on Thursday that he was not guilty of espionage, something he has been accused of by the FSB security service, the state TASS news agency reported.
The reporter – an accredited foreign correspondent in Moscow – was held over alleged ‘illegal activities’ and was ‘suspected of espionage for the US government‘, the FSB said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman said Gershkovich had been ‘caught red-handed’. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.
The Journal said in a statement: ‘The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.’
The FSB said that Gershkovich ‘was acting on the US orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret’.
‘While trying to obtain secret information, an American was detained in Yekaterinburg,’ said the FSB, which provided no evidence for its accusations.
The FSB is a domestic security and counterintelligence agency that is the top successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB. Putin’s spokesman prejudged Gershkovich before any investigation or trial.
‘There was already a statement from the FSB,’ he said.’The only thing I can say is that, as far as we know, he was caught red-handed.’
He did not elaborate on what he is believed to have been caught ‘red-handed’ for. DailyMail reported.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also implied the journalist was guilty before any due process.
‘What an employee of the American edition of The Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg has nothing to do with journalism,’ she said.
‘Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the status of “foreign correspondent”, a journalistic visa and accreditation, are used by foreigners in our country to cover up activities that are not journalism.
‘This is not the first well-known Westerner to be “grabbed by the hand”.
Reports suggest Gershkovich was held Wednesday at the Bukowski Grill restaurant and led by plain-clothed officers to a waiting vehicle with a sweater pulled over his head.