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Trial for US journalist Gershkovich jailed in Russia set to begin later in June

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk June 17, 2024 9:42 AM 2 min read
U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, stands inside a defendant's cage before a hearing to consider an appeal on his arrest in Moscow, Russia, on April 18, 2023. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP via Getty Images)
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Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter who has been jailed in Russia for over a year, will stand trial in Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage in proceedings set to begin on June 26, Russian court officials said on June 17.

The trial is planned to occur behind closed doors.

Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg in late March 2023 while working on a story about the Wagner mercenary group's recruiting methods, as well as Russian citizens' views on the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. He was jailed without charges for over 14 months as authorities repeatedly extended his pre-trial detention.

Russia formally accused Gershkovich of spying for the CIA and finalized his indictment on June 13, announcing that he would finally go to trial. Russian authorities have not publicly released any evidence to support the charges.

If convicted, Gershkovich faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

WSJ publisher Almar Latour and Chief Editor Emma Tucker issued a statement in response dismissing the charges as "false and baseless" and calling for Gershkovich's immediate release.

"Russia's latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous," the statement read.

If convicted, Gershkovich faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The WSJ appealed to President Joe Biden to intensify efforts to free Gershkovich.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Dec. 14 that he would be open to negotiating the return of jailed U.S. citizens, including Gershkovich, under "mutually acceptable" conditions.

The U.S. government is still working to return Gershkovich along with jailed U.S. citizen Paul Whelan, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing following the prosecutor's announcement.

"We have been clear form the start that Evan has done nothing wrong," Miller said.

"He should never have been arrested in the first place; journalism is not a crime. The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows that they are false. He should be released immediately."

Miller said the U.S. is "constantly pursuing" avenues for Gershkovich's release.

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