US reporter, jailed in Russia on espionage charges, to stand trial

Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. journalist, will stand trial in Russia on espionage charges. Gershkovich has been jailed for over a year and stands accused of "gathering secret information" on orders from the CIA about a military equipment facility.

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June 13, 2024 - 2:21 PM

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the First Appeals Court of General Jurisdiction in Moscow, Russia, April 23, 2024. After 15 months, he is no closer to being released. Photo by AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File

MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been jailed for over a year in Russia on espionage charges, will stand trial in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, where he was detained, authorities said Thursday.

An indictment of The Wall Street Journal reporter has been finalized and his case was filed to the Sverdlovsky Regional Court in the city about 870 miles east of Moscow, according to Russia’s Prosecutor General’s office.

Gershkovich, 32, is accused of “gathering secret information” on orders from the CIA about Uralvagonzavod, a facility in the Sverdlovsk region that produces and repairs military equipment, the Prosecutor General’s office said in a statement, revealing for the first time the details of the accusations against him.

The officials didn’t provide any evidence to back up the accusations. There was no word on when the trial would begin.

The Biden administration has sought to negotiate his release, but Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow would consider a prisoner swap only after a verdict in his trial.

Gershkovich was detained while on a reporting trip to Yekaterinburg in March 2023 and accused of spying for the United States. The reporter, his employer and the U.S. government denied the allegations, and Washington designated him as wrongfully detained.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, alleged at the time he was acting on U.S. orders to collect state secrets but also provided no evidence.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” according to a statement by Almar Latour, Dow Jones CEO and publisher of the Journal, and Emma Tucker, the Journal’s editor in chief.

They added that the charges against Gershkovich were “false and baseless.”

“The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting and based on calculated and transparent lies. Journalism is not a crime. Evan’s case is an assault on free press,” the statement said. “We had hoped to avoid this moment and now expect the U.S. government to redouble efforts to get Evan released.”

Uralvagonzavod, a state tank and railroad car factory in the city of Nizhny Tagil about 60 miles north of Yekaterinburg, became known in 2011-12 as a bedrock of support for President Vladimir Putin.

Plant foreman Igor Kholmanskih appeared on Putin’s annual phone-in program in December 2011 and denounced mass protests occurring in Moscow at the time as a threat to “stability,” proposing that he and his colleagues travel to the capital to help suppress the unrest. A week later, Putin appointed Kholmanskikh to be his envoy in the region.

Putin has said he believed a deal could be reached to free Gershkovich, hinting he would be open to swapping him for a Russian national imprisoned in Germany, which appeared to be Vadim Krasikov. He was serving a life sentence for the 2019 killing in Berlin of a Georgian citizen of Chechen descent.

Asked last week by The Associated Press about Gershkovich, Putin said the U.S. is “taking energetic steps” to secure his release. He told international news agencies in St. Petersburg that any such releases “aren’t decided via mass media” but through a “discreet, calm and professional approach.”

“And they certainly should be decided only on the basis of reciprocity,” he added in an allusion to a potential prisoner swap.

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