Russia's intelligence services have detained a U.S. citizen working for the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal. A closed session Russian court formally arrested reporter Evan Gershkovich on charges of espionage and ordered the American journalist held until May 29, pending an investigation, Russian media report.
Gershkovich was on a reporting assignment in the Ural mountain city of Yekaterinburg when he was detained by agents from Russia's Federal Security Services, the FSB, which accused him of carrying out "illegal activities" on behalf of the U.S. government.
In a statement, the agency alleged that Gershkovich, "acting on an assignment from the American side, was gathering information classified as a state secret about the activity of one of the enterprises of Russia's military-industrial complex."
The Urals mountain region is home to various Russian military factories.
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The Wall Street Journal said in a statement it "vehemently denies the allegations."
Russia has introduced a slew of new restrictive laws surrounding media and information amid the war in Ukraine.
The Journal is one of a small handful of Western media outlets to have continued to report in Moscow despite the restrictive environment.
The Kremlin said it was aware of the arrest but called it "the prerogative" of the FSB.
"The only thing I can say is that, as far as we're aware, they caught him red-handed," said Kremlin spokesmen Dmitry Peskov, in a call with reporters.
Peskov also noted that the Journal could continue its work in Russia.
Russia's Foreign Ministry — which issues visas and accreditation to foreign journalists — expressed support for Gershkovich's arrest.
"Unfortunately, it's not the first time the status of 'foreign correspondent', a journalist visa, and accreditation have been used by foreigners in our country to cover for activities that have nothing to do with journalism," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
Russia's Kommersant daily newspaper, said Gershkovich would soon be transported to Moscow's Lefortovo prison, the FSB's pre-trial detention facility.
Espionage charges in Russia can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Gershkovich has covered Russia since 2017, working with The Moscow Times and the Agence France-Presse before joining the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal.
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