Russian Court Extends Detention of Evan Gershkovich to August – According to Russian news agencies, a Moscow court has decided to prolong the imprisonment of Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who was arrested on espionage allegations in late March. In a short hearing on Tuesday, the court determined that Gershkovich would continue to be held in custody until 30 August, as his initial period of pre-trial detention was due to end next week.
Currently confined in the infamous Lefortovo prison in Moscow, Gershkovich could potentially receive a maximum sentence of 20 years if convicted. The investigation into the case is still ongoing, and a trial date has not been established. The hearing that took place on Tuesday was conducted behind closed doors, without public access. Evan Gershkovich, aged 31, is the first American journalist to be arrested in Russia on espionage allegations since the conclusion of the Cold War.
He was apprehended in Ekaterinburg, a city in the Urals, while on a reporting assignment at the end of March. The Russian FSB security service has alleged that he was gathering classified information related to the country’s military-industrial complex. Gershkovich and the Wall Street Journal have refuted these accusations, and the US State Department has declared that Gershkovich is being held unjustly.
An open letter to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, signed by more than 300 foreign correspondents who previously worked in Russia, said: “We have no doubt that the only purpose and intention of his work was to inform his readers about the current reality in Russia.” Last month the US president, Joe Biden, praised the “absolute courage” of Gershkovich and said he was “working like hell” to secure his release.
There has been widespread speculation that Russia detained Gershkovich with the intention of using him as leverage for the release of Russian intelligence officers or other individuals of interest held in western countries. However, discussions regarding a potential exchange have made little progress thus far. In the previous month, the media were briefly permitted to enter the courtroom prior to a hearing, during which Gershkovich was seen standing inside a glass enclosure, a common feature in Russian courtrooms.
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Visible on his wrists were marks believed to be caused by handcuffs. According to reports, Gershkovich’s parents, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, who fled the Soviet Union in the late 1970s and settled in the US, were present in Moscow on Tuesday for the court hearing. “I want to say that I am not losing hope,” Gershkovich wrote in a letter to his parents from jail last month. “I read. I exercise. And I am trying to write.”