Russian authorities plan to detain an American journalist who works for The Wall Street Journal for two months.
The reporter, Evan Gershkovich, was detained on suspicion of espionage, according to Russia’s Federal Security Service. Shortly after, a Moscow court ordered Gershkovich’s detention to last until May 29, according to the Journal, which cited local reports.
Gershkovich’s detention escalates already high tensions between the United States and Russia. The U.S. government is spending billions to support Ukraine’s defense against invading Russian forces. The Biden administration has been in touch with the Journal about the situation, a senior administration official told NBC News.
The FSB alleged Gershkovich “was collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the military-industrial complex of Russia.” Gershkovich pleaded not guilty to espionage charges, according to Russian state news agency Tass. If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison.
The Wall Street Journal adamantly denied the charges, adding that it sought “the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter.”
“We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family,” the Journal said.
Russia is one of the worst countries in the world for press freedom, according to a 2022 index from Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit advocacy group. It has gotten worse since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, according to the organization.
The country’s government has a long history of harassing journalists, including detaining foreigners on spying charges that appear more politically motivated.
Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin has overseen a significant crackdown on free speech and political dissent.