President Joe Biden on Friday called on Russia to release Wall Street reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is being held on spying charges and collecting classified information.
In response to the detention of the American journalist, The Wall Street Journal’s board of opinion editors called on the US government to expel Russia’s ambassador to the United States, as well as all Russian journalists working here, describing the move as “the minimum to expect.”
Speaking to reporters before leaving to view tornado damage in Mississippi, President Biden said that expelling Russian journalists was “not the plan right now.”
Russia’s FSB security service claimed the journalist had been detained “acting on US instructions”. It added, that the reporter had “collected classified information as a state secret about the activities of a Russian defense enterprise”.
On Friday, the Russian state news agency (Tass) reported that the journalist had denied the charge, however, he will remain in detention until May 29, according to the Lefortovo district court’s decision.
It is reported that the WSJ reporter was on a mission in Russia reporting on Russia’s declining economy and how the Kremlin was having to deal with expanding military expenditures while maintaining social spending.
Reporters Without Borders said Evan had gone to Yekaterinburg to cover Russian mercenary “Wagner Group” which has taken part in some of the heaviest fightings in eastern Ukraine.
It is believed that Evan is the first foreign journalist held for spying in post-Soviet Russia, and his arrest is expected to escalate relations between Kremlin and the West amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Espionage in Russia carries a maximum jail term of 20 years, a serious punishment of its kind.