Wall Street Journal reporter held in Russia given access to lawyers, paper says

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Lawyers for American journalist Evan Gershkovich, detained in Russia on espionage charges since last week, were finally able to visit him Tuesday, his paper said.

Gershkovich, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal, had been placed in detention by a Russian court and had been without access to the paper’s lawyers until they visited him in prison for the first time on Tuesday.

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“We are encouraged that Evan’s lawyers, retained by Dow Jones [the newspaper’s parent company], were able to meet with him in prison today,” Emma Tucker, the Journal’s editor-in-chief, wrote in a note to colleagues.

“He is grateful for the outpouring of support from around the world. We continue to call for his immediate release,” Tucker said.

The arrest of Gershkovich, a former journalist for AFP in Moscow, has prompted an outcry from US media outlets and rights groups, as well as government officials.

Both the paper – one of the most prestigious in the United States – and the reporter deny the charges. Gershkovich lodged an appeal on Monday against his detention, scheduled to last until at least May 29.

“The legal avenue is one of several avenues we are working to advocate for Evan’s release,” Tucker wrote.

“We continue to work with the White House, State Department and relevant US government officials to secure Evan’s release,” she said.

US President Joe Biden called for Gershkovich’s release on Friday, with the White House calling the accusations against him “ridiculous.”

In the background of Gershkovich’s arrest looms a larger crackdown by Russia on its press since the invasion of Ukraine, as well as rising tensions between Washington and Moscow – punctuated by recent arrests of high-profile Americans.

US women’s basketball star Brittney Griner was arrested in Russia last year on drug charges before being released in a December prisoner swap that saw the United States return Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Washington has long accused Moscow of arbitrarily arresting Americans in order to secure the release of detained Russians.

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