US reporter charged with spying against Russia appears in court in first public sighting for weeks

18 April 2023, 13:34

Evan Gershkovich is charged with espionage - something he denies, as international critics describe the charge as political
Evan Gershkovich is charged with espionage - something he denies, as international critics describe the charge as political. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Detained US journalist Evan Gershkovich has appeared in court in Moscow in his first public sighting in weeks.

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The Wall Street Journal reporter was arrested in the Ural city of Yekaterinburg in March and is charged with spying.

But international critics see the move as political, with the US and more than 40 other countries calling for his release.

The 31-year-old stood in a glass enclosure and gave a smile during his hearing, which the media was initially allowed access to, but he did not say anything to reporters.

Read more: Stand off in the sky: RAF and German fighter jets intercept Russian spy plane near Baltic countries

Journalists were kicked out after the hearing started and were to be allowed back in at its conclusion.

US ambassador Lynne Tracy was at the court, along with Mr Gershkovich's lawyer.

She said he was in good health and "remains strong".

Mr Gershkovich appeared in court on Tuesday
Mr Gershkovich appeared in court on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

"The charges against Evan are baseless and we call on the Russian Federation to immediately release him," she said.

Mr Gershkovich, who denies breaking any laws, could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

Moscow accuses him of trying to get classified defence information for Washington.

Read more: Putin's top generals plotting to ‘throw’ Ukraine war, according to rumour in leaked US spy documents

He was investigating the brutal Wagner group, a mercenary company that is accused of committing atrocities in the Ukraine invasion.

Mr Gershkovich has been held at the Lefortovo prison, a jail considered synonymous with repression since the Soviet era. It is the first time an American reporter to be accused of spying since the days of communism.

His arrest came after Russia passed a number of brutal laws designed to stop dissidence against the Kremlin and its disastrous invasion of Ukraine.

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