Washington DC, 31 March 2023 (TDI): Secretary of the United States (US), Antony Blinken has expressed deep concern over the detention of American journalist, Evan Gershkovich in Russia.
We are deeply concerned over Russia’s announcement it has detained a U.S. citizen journalist. The @StateDept’s highest priority is the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. If you are a U.S. citizen living or traveling in Russia – please leave immediately.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) March 30, 2023
The Wall Street Journal correspondent has been accused of spying by the Russian authorities, which the newspaper categorically denies and has called for his immediate release.
This is a worrying development and highlights concerns over press freedom and the safety of American citizens abroad.
Notably, Gershkovich’s detention comes at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the US, with both countries accusing each other of spying.
The Kremlin has not commented on whether Gershkovich’s arrest is in retaliation for the recent arrest of a Russian national in the US on espionage charges.
Take of US government and the international community
The US government has disapproved of the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia and accused Moscow of engaging in “hostage-taking” tactics.
For the record, the charges against Gershkovich, who was detained during a reporting trip to the Urals city of Ekaterinburg, were officially presented at a hearing on Thursday.
Russia’s FSB security service accused him of collecting classified information about the activities of a Russian military-industrial complex enterprise.
To mention, Gershkovich’s detention has been extended until at least 29 May, and he faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years if convicted.
US Secretary of State and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have objected to the arrest in the strongest possible terms, calling it an attempt by the Kremlin to intimidate, repress & punish journalists and civil society voices.
Both officials have advised US citizens in Russia to leave immediately. Furthermore, the arrest has been widely criticized, with many describing the charges as absurd and the arrest itself as “hostage-taking as a tool of statecraft.”
Criticism faced by Russian authorities
The move has been seen as an attempt by Moscow to use Gershkovich as leverage in a potential prisoner swap.
Likewise, the journalist’s friends and colleagues have also expressed their disbelief at the charges, describing him as a professional and the allegations against him as ridiculous.
Notably, the case is the latest example of a growing crackdown on journalists and civil society in Russia, and it has been met with condemnation from the international community.
Russia’s decision to detain a US journalist shows their complete disregard for media freedom.
We stand shoulder to shoulder with the US in defence of these fundamental democratic principles.
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) March 30, 2023
Thus, the US government has called on Moscow to release Gershkovich and to respect the rights of journalists and civil society.
Also, the State Department and White House have been in contact with The Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich’s family and have his detention in the strongest terms.
The US government is actively working to secure consular access to Gershkovich, which may take several days due to Russia’s administrative procedures and security requirements.
Moreover, the State Department has also requested official notification of his arrest, as required under the bilateral consular convention.
To mention, Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine, and the former Soviet Union and has previously worked for news agencies Agence France-Presse, the Moscow Times, and the New York Times.