Russia’s top security service has detained a Wall Street Journal writer on espionage allegations, marking the first time since the end of the Cold War that a U.S. correspondent has been arrested on spying charges.
The Federal Security Service announced on Thursday that Evan Gershkovich was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains for allegedly attempting to get secret information.
The Wall Street Journal expressed grave worry for Gershkovich’s safety in a statement. The arrest occurs amid acrimonious relations between the West and Russia over the Ukrainian conflict.
Russia’s top security service claims a Wall Street Journal writer was arrested for spying.
Gershkovich is the first American journalist imprisoned in Russia on espionage accusations since Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, was apprehended by KGB agents. Twenty days later, he was freed without charges in exchange for an employee of the Soviet Union’s mission to the United Nations who was detained by the FBI.
The FSB, the main successor agency to the Soviet-era KGB, said that Gershkovich “acted on U.S. orders to gather state-secret information regarding the activities of one of the firms of the Russian military industrial complex.”
The agency did not specify when the arrest occurred. If convicted of espionage, Gershkovich faces up to twenty years in jail.
Wall Street Journal Moscow correspondent Gershkovich covers Russia, Ukraine, and other ex-Soviet countries.
The FSB highlighted that he was accredited by the Russian Foreign Ministry to operate as a journalist, but Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated that Gershkovich was using his journalistic credentials as a cover for “actions that have nothing to do with journalism.”
His recent report from Moscow, released earlier this week, focused on the stagnation of the Russian economy as a result of Western sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014.
The arrest of Gershkovich followed a December trade in which WNBA star Brittney Griner was exchanged for Russian weapons dealer Viktor Bout after ten months in prison.
Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security professional, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on spurious espionage allegations, according to his family and the U.S. authorities.