Wall Street Journal reporter detained for spying in Russia appeals arrest

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US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Russia last week on spying claims that he denies, is appealing his detention, a Moscow court said Monday.

The 31-year-old is believed to be the first foreign journalist arrested on spying allegations since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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His arrest has drawn outrage from the West and is seen as a serious escalation of Moscow’s crackdown on media.

A spokeswoman for Moscow’s Lefortovo district court said: “The date of the hearing on his detention appeal will be announced this week.”

She added that the appeal, which will be heard in a higher court, was filed by the same lawyer that represented Gershkovich during his detention hearing.

The Wall Street Journal reporter and former AFP journalist in Moscow was remanded in custody until May 29.

He and the Wall Street Journal have denied the charges against him.

Kremlin-friendly monitors who oversee conditions in jails visited Gershkovich in Lefortovo.

The journalist made “no complaint” about the conditions, Alexei Melnikov of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission said on Telegram on Monday.

“At the time of the visit, he was full of energy and made plenty of jokes during the conversation,” he said.

The Wall Street Journal said it “vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter”.

The White House said Monday that Gershkovich had yet to meet with someone from the US consulate in Moscow.

“They are trying to get consular access to Evan very, very hard, and yet we’ve still not been able to do that,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

He said the issue “has got everybody’s attention including the president’s”, and “we will do everything we can to get Evan home”.

However, there were “no illusions” about the difficulty ahead. “It’s going to take a lot of hard work,” he said.

More than three dozen news organizations have signed a letter to the Russian ambassador in the United States denouncing “unfounded espionage charges”.

“Gershkovich’s unwarranted and unjust arrest is a significant escalation in your government’s anti-press actions,” the letter released by the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

“Gershkovich is a journalist, not a spy, and should be released immediately and without conditions,” it added.

Russian state news agency TASS said the case against the journalist has been classified “top secret”, a label which restricts information that can be published about it.

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