Russian President Vladimir Putin personally approved the arrest of a U.S. reporter on espionage charges for the first time since the Cold War, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
The detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on March 29 triggered angry denunciations from the U.S. and its allies, marking yet another low in U.S.-Russian ties.
The release of the detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is a “priority” and “urgency” for U.S. President Joe Biden, according to the White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
“These charges are ridiculous. Evan is not a spy. Evan has never been a spy. Evan has never worked for the U.S. government,” Jean-Pierre said in a press conference on April 4. “This is a case that is a priority for this president.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it wasn’t Putin’s decision but was “the total prerogative of the special services. They were doing their job,” according to Bloomberg. Those agencies report directly to the president.
Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, about 1400 kilometers east of Moscow, by Federal Security Service agents. He was charged with spying, which carries a 20-year penalty, and is currently being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.