MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Tuesday extended the detention period of Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich who was arrested on espionage allegations until January 30, Russian news agencies reported.
The criminal case against American journalist was classified, so the hearing was held behind closed doors.
Gershkovich was arrested on March 1st, while on a reporting visit to Yekaterinburg in Russia, approximately 2,000 km (1,200 mi) east of Moscow. The Russian Federal Security Service claimed that the reporter “acted on the American side’s instructions” and collected state secrets about one of the Russian military industrial complex’s enterprises.
The Journal and Gershkovich deny these allegations. The U.S. Government has declared that he was wrongfully imprisoned. The Russian authorities have not provided any evidence in support of the espionage allegations.
Gershkovich, an American journalist, is the first American to be accused of espionage by the KGB in Russia since 1986 when Nicholas Daniloff was arrested as a Moscow correspondent with U.S. News and World Report. He is currently being held in the notorious Lefortovo Prison, which is located in Moscow.
Analysts believe that Moscow is using American prisoners as bargaining chips, after tensions between the U.S. and Russia erupted when Russia invaded Ukraine. At least two U.S. citizen arrested in Russia over the past few years, including WNBA superstar Brittney Grinder, have been traded for Russians imprisoned in America.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that it would only consider a Gershkovich swap after the verdict of his trial. In Russia, espionage cases can take more than one year.