A picture taken on July 24, 2021 shows journalist Evan Gershkovich.

A picture taken on July 24, 2021 shows journalist Evan Gershkovich.
| Photo Credit: AFP

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has spent a year behind bars in Russia, is awaiting a trial on espionage charges the White House says are fabricated but could still see him jailed for decades.

His arrest in March 2023 on charges of spying — the first such charge against a Western journalist since the Soviet era — showed that the Kremlin was prepared to go further than ever before in what President Vladimir Putin has called a “hybrid war” with the West.

Russia has kept information about his case classified, sharing no details since his arrest in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on March 29, 2023.

The U.S.-born son of Soviet emigres covered Russia for six years as the Kremlin made independent, on-the-ground reporting increasingly dangerous and illegal.

The Wall Street Journal and the White House vehemently deny Russia’s accusation, which they see as a false pretext to secure the release of Russians in custody in the U.S.

Mr. Putin said last month that he would like to see Mr. Gershkovich released as part of a prisoner exchange, but cautioned certain “terms” were being discussed.

The 32-year-old, who has been remanded in custody until at least the end of June, faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Mr. Gershkovich had carried on reporting from across Russia, even after dozens of other foreign correspondents left over Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Mr. Gershkovich reported extensively on how ordinary Russians experienced the Ukraine conflict, speaking to the families of dead soldiers and Putin critics.

Breaking stories and getting people to talk was becoming increasingly hard, Mr. Gershkovich told friends before his arrest.

But as long as it was not impossible, he saw a reason to be there.


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