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Russia Arrests WSJ Journalist For Alleged Spying

Arrest comes a month after a state department warning for Americans to leave Russia over fears of detention

Russia’s state security forces (FSB) have arrested a reporter working for the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), indicting him on espionage charges.

Evan Gershkovich was apprehended in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg while allegedly attempting to obtain classified information, according to Russian state media outlet Tass.

The outlet reported that the FSB Public Relations Center said Gershokovich was “acting at the behest of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprise within Russia’s military-industrial complex.”

Gershokovich, who is part of WSJ’s Moscow bureau, denies the espionage allegations and has entered a plea of not guilty. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “It is not about a suspicion, it is about the fact that he was caught red-handed,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.

“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the newspaper said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”

Gershokovich is the first U.S. reporter to face espionage charges in Russia since 1986, when a correspondent for U.S. News and World Report was arrested by the KGB, the AP reported.

Hours after the arrest was announced, the U.S. State Department denounced Russia’s actions.

“We are deeply concerned over Russia’s widely-reported detention of a U.S. citizen journalist.  We are in contact with the Wall Street Journal on this situation,” the State Department said in a press release. “Whenever a U.S. citizen is detained abroad, we immediately seek consular access, and seek to provide all appropriate support.”

“In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices,” officials added. “The Department of State’s highest priority is the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. We reiterate our strong warnings about the danger posed to U.S. citizens inside the Russian Federation. U.S. citizens residing or traveling in Russia should depart immediately, as stated in our Travel Advisory for Russia.”

In February, the State Department updated its travel advisory warning that amid heightened tensions over the Ukraine conflict, travel to Russia could result in the “harassment and the singling out of U.S. citizens for detention by Russian government security officials” before warning Americans in Russia to “depart immediately.”

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