US journalist detained in Moscow is clearly Russian state hostage
The Russian authorities claim to have caught a US reporter “red-handed” but they had yet to produce any evidence more than 24 hours after a court ordered his detention. The fact that Evan Gershkovich’s detention was ordered in defiance of the rights of the defence proves the bad faith of the Russian authorities, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says.
The judicial treatment that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is receiving is clearly arbitrary. Transferred to Moscow after the Federal Security Service (FSB) confirmed that he had been arrested in western Siberia for spying, he remains cut off from the world and deprived of his defence rights.
His lawyer, Daniil Berman, was denied access to the court hearing in the Moscow district of Lefortovo at which his provisional detention was ordered. Reporters who went to cover the hearing were also turned away from the court building without explanation,
According to the independent media outlet Mediazona, Gershkovich went to Nizhny Tagil, an industrial city in western Siberia that is the site of the huge UralVagonZavod military plant, an almost legendary tank-manufacturing complex during the Second World War that has been producing Т-90 tanks since the 1990s.
The FSB said he went there to gather information about “the Russian military-industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.” But even if this were the case, it does not mean that he committed an act of espionage.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Gershkovich was “caught red-handed” but offered no further detail. And no other official has so far produced any evidence to support the claims against Gershkovich, who has been an accredited Moscow-based reporter for years.
“Evan Gershkovich’s detention clearly amounts to institutional hostage taking. The Russian authorities are showing marked bad faith, otherwise they would respect his defence rights. We know that this government is creative when it comes to manipulation, especially with regard to journalists.
The growing tensions between Russia and the United States are almost certainly not unrelated to Gershkovich’s arrest. Many experts think the Russian authorities see Gershkovich as a potential bargaining chip in negotiations for the release of a Russian spy. It could be Sergey Cherkasov, an alleged Russian intelligence officer recently indicted in the United States, who had tried to infiltrate the International Criminal Court (ICC) last summer.
It was thanks to such a prisoner swap that Nick Daniloff, the last US journalist to be detained in Moscow for espionage, was released. That was in 1986, at the iciest period of the Cold War.