Russia detains WSJ journalist on espionage charges UPDATED

30 March, 02:05 PM
Evan Gershkovich was preparing a material about Wagner's PMC, he was detained in Yekaterinburg (Photo:Evan Gershkovich/Facebook)

Evan Gershkovich was preparing a material about Wagner's PMC, he was detained in Yekaterinburg (Photo:Evan Gershkovich/Facebook)

The Russia's FSB security service has detained Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti wrote on Telegram on March 30.

Kremlin-controlled Russian news agency TASS reported later on March 30 that Gershkovich had been ordered to be held in custody by the Lefortovsky Court of Moscow.

The FSB had earlier detained Gershkovich in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg 900 miles to the east of Moscow.

The FSB claimed that “on the instructions of the United States, (Gershkovich) was collecting classified information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex.”

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It is the first case of a U.S. correspondent being arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War.

A PR manager from Yekaterinburg, Yaroslav Shyrshykov, wrote on Telegram that people from London got in touch him after they lost contact with Gershkovich, who had left Moscow to Yekaterinburg. The editorial office had Shyrshykov's contact, just in case.

Gershkovich was collecting materials about the Wagner Group, Shyrshykov said to Russian local Yekaterinburg news

"He came on a big expedition. He was mainly interested in the attitude toward PMC (private military company) Wagner in particular and "special operation" in general. Our emigrants had named the people he could talk to in Yekaterinburg," he said.

Gershkovich didn't mention his trip to anyone else, the PR manager said.

"I took him behind the scenes to see different speakers, and we managed to avoid provocation. He was happy with the trip in general," he said and added that contact with the journalist had been lost for the past 24 hours.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation said it was concerned about the detention of Gershkovich, speculating it could have been a case of revenge-taking.

"Journalists must not be targeted!" the organisation wrote on Twitter.

Wagner Group mercenaries have been fighting in Ukraine since 2014 and have taken an active part in the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

A Russian oligarch and a close ally of the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, admitted that he created Wagner Group in 2014 to fight in Ukraine.

About 50,000 of his mercenaries are involved in the war in Ukraine, according to UK intelligence's estimations.

The United States in early 2023 declared Wagner Group to be a transnational criminal organization.

The last time a foreign journalist was arrested in Russia on espionage charges was 37 years ago, according to Russia's Memorial human rights organization, which is now banned from working in Russia. On Sep. 2, 1986, the KGB arrested Nicholas Daniloff, who worked as Moscow correspondent for UPI and U.S. News & World Report.

He had worked in the capital of the Soviet Union since the 1960s.

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