Evan Gershkovich: Russian judge upholds detention of Wall Street Journal reporter

US reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday to appeal his detention on spying charges

A Russian judge has upheld the detention of US journalist Evan Gershkovich after he was arrested on spying charges last month.

The Wall Street Journal reporter's appeal against his pre-trial detention was rejected at Moscow City Court on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old, who is the first US correspondent since the Cold War to be detained on spying allegations, stood in a glass box in the courtroom during the hearing.

He was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service in Yekaterinburg in March and has been accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory.

He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich pictured in a glass box in the Moscow courtroom Credit: AP

Russian lawyers have said past investigations into espionage cases took a year to 18 months, during which time he could have little contact with the outside world.

He has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, a jail in Moscow that was previously used by the KGB to house espionage suspects and political dissidents.

US Ambassador Lynne Tracy, who attended Tuesday's hearing, said a day earlier she had visited Gershkovich in prison.

She said on Twitter that “he is in good health and remains strong,” reiterating a US call for his immediate release.

Gershkovich, his employer and the US government deny he was involved in spying and have demanded his release.

“Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering. Any suggestions otherwise are false," the Journal has said in a statement.

US President Joe Biden spoke to the reporter's parents last week and condemned his detention.

“We’re making it real clear that it’s totally illegal what’s happening, and we declared it so,” he said.

The US has also officially declared that Gershkovich was “wrongfully detained.”

Evan Gershkovich pictured being escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court last month Credit: AP

Gershkovich's arrest comes amid growing tension between the West and Russia over Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

It also follows the Kremlin's intensifying crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists, and civil groups.

On Monday, opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. was sentenced to 25 years in jail for treason for publicly denouncing the war.

A top Russian diplomat said last week that Russia might be willing to discuss a potential prisoner swap with the US involving Gershkovich after his trial. That means any exchange is unlikely to happen any time soon. In December, American basketball star Brittney Griner was exchanged for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout following her trial and conviction on drug possession charges. She had been sentenced to nine years in prison and ended up spending 10 months behind bars. Another American, Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan who also holds UK citizenship, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges, which his family and the US government have called baseless.

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