Russia has formally charged Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich with spying, Russian state media reported, citing people familiar with the case.
The reported charges by Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, come more than a week after the US citizen was detained during a reporting trip to Ekaterinburg in Russia’s Ural Mountains region. Gershkovich has denied the changes, Tass reported.
Gershkovich, 31, was brought to Moscow and is being detained in the city’s Lefortovo Prison. It wasn’t clear until now whether the New Jersey native had been formally charged, although various Russian officials have referred to “charges” against him.
The Wall Street Journal issued a statement Saturday saying the charges against Gershkovich are false. “We’ve seen media reports indicating Evan has been charged. As we’ve said from the beginning, these charges are categorically false and unjustified, and we continue to demand Evan’s immediate release,” the statement said.
A Moscow court this week said it would hear an appeal from Gershkovich’s lawyers challenging his detention, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Lynne Tracy, the new US ambassador to Russia, met Thursday with Sergei Ryabkov, Russian deputy foreign minister, the New York Times reported.
Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Ryabkov commented on “the serious nature of the charges” during his meeting with Tracy, who took up her post in Moscow in January.
Russia hasn’t provided consular access to Gershkovich, which John Kirby, a White House spokesman, on Thursday called “inexcusable.”
The US last week summoned Russia’s ambassador for a meeting over Gershkovich’s arrest and detention, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken initiated a rare call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov last weekend.
Earlier on Friday, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and Republican leader Mitch McConnell issued a rare joint statement demanding the journalist be released and the charges against him dropped.
“Let there be no mistake: journalism is not a crime,” Schumer and McConnell said. “We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr. Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released.”
Blinken told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday that the State Department is “working through” the process to formally determine that Gershkovich has been wrongfully detained by Russia, a finding that authorizes the US to negotiate on his behalf.
“I’ll let that process play out,” Blinken said. He added, however, that “in my own mind, there’s no doubt that he’s being wrongfully detained by Russia, which is exactly what I said to Foreign Minister Lavrov.”