Russia Rejects U.S. Journalist’s Appeal of Spying Arrest

From a Washington Post story by Mary Ilyushina headlined “Russia rejects U.S. journalist Gershkovich’s appeal of spying arrest”:

Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter jailed in Russia and accused of espionage, appeared in a Moscow court on Tuesday to appeal his detention on the spying charges, which the United States and other Western governments have denounced as spurious.

The whole proceeding lasted barely 90 minutes, and the appeal was rejected, meaning Gershkovich will remain in prison while awaiting trial.

The arrest of Gershkovich, who is a U.S. citizen, crossed a new threshold in the Kremlin’s widespread crackdown on free speech and political dissent amid Russia’s war in Ukraine.

In the first images from the courtroom published by news agencies, Gershkovich stood inside a glass-enclosed defendant’s dock, wearing a blue plaid shirt with his arms folded in front of him. He made no comments to the dozens of journalists who were let inside for a photo opportunity before the hearing, which was conducted behind closed doors because of the supposedly sensitive nature of the charges.

Gershkovich, 31, was detained in late March while on a reporting trip to the city of Yekaterinburg in the Urals. The Federal Security Service, or FSB, accused him of trying to obtain classified information, a claim that Gershkovich, his employer and the U.S. government have strenuously denied.

Shortly after Gershkovich’s arrest, the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the journalist was “caught red-handed.” However, neither Peskov nor Russian law enforcement officials have disclosed any evidence to back up the claim.

A few hours before the hearing started in Moscow, Russian law enforcement officers detained an activist and public relations expert, Yaroslav Shirshikov, who was among people contacted by Gershkovich for an interview before his arrest, the Kommersant newspaper reported Tuesday.

In clips posted on the popular messaging app Telegram, plainclothes agents were shown storming into Shirshikov’s apartment, throwing him on the floor and handcuffing him.
The charges against Shirshikov were not clear, and officials did not publicly link his detention to Gershkovich’s case. But the activist was one of the first people to sound the alarm after the journalist’s disappearance and has said that he gave an interview to Gershkovich and aided him with his reporting before his arrest.

Last week, the State Department labeled Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained,” meaning that his case receives special attention within the U.S. government. Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

In Russia, such prosecutions can take many months before a verdict is delivered, and Gershkovich will be largely isolated from the outside world.

On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, said she was able to visit Gershkovich in Moscow’s Lefortovo Prison, notorious for its harsh conditions. Tracy said that “he is in good health and remains strong.”

It was “the first time we’ve been permitted access to him since his wrongful detention more than two weeks ago,” she posted on Twitter. “We reiterate our call for his immediate release.”

Mary Ilyushina, a reporter on the Foreign Desk of The Washington Post, covers Russia and the region. She began her career in independent Russian media before joining CNN’s Moscow bureau as a field producer in 2017. She has been with The Post since 2021. She speaks Russian, English, Ukrainian and Arabic.

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