Jailed US reporter to be tried behind closed doors, says Russian court | Evan Gershkovich

The jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will be tried behind closed doors by a Russian court later this month in a high-profile prosecution that his employer and the US government have decried as a sham.

Gershkovich, who was arrested last March in Ekaterinburg while on a reporting trip, has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison for more than a year while Russia’s FSB security service says it has been carrying out an investigation into his case.

He is the first American journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the cold war. Gershkovich has denied the charges and pleaded not guilty.

On Monday the court announced that his trial would begin on 26 June in a “closed regime”, meaning journalists will not be allowed to attend or report on details of the accusations. Trials involving national security are often closed in Russia. In previous cases, large parts of verdicts have also been delivered in secret.

Investigators claim Gershkovich was working for the CIA to gather information on Uralvagonzavod, a Russian arms manufacturer that makes the country’s main battle tanks, along with other armaments. The maximum sentence is 20 years in prison.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington was concerned about the decision to hold the trial behind closed doors. “We have a concern about that. We are going to attempt to attend the trial, [but we] don’t know if that will be possible,” he said.

Gershkovich was accredited by the foreign ministry to work in Russia as a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, which has said that he has been falsely charged.

“Evan Gershkovich is facing a false and baseless charge,” the Wall Street Journal’s publisher, Almar Latour, and its editor-in-chief, Emma Tucker, said in a statement.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous. Evan has spent 441 days wrongfully detained in a Russian prison for simply doing his job. Evan is a journalist. The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting and based on calculated and transparent lies.”

Vladimir Putin has indicated that he wants to trade Gershkovich for Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer believed to be working for the FSB who is serving a life sentence in a German prison for the 2019 assassination of a former Chechen rebel commander in Berlin’s Tiergarten.

On Monday, the Kremlin spokesperson declined to comment on negotiations regarding Gershkovich’s release. “Putin confirmed the existence of such contacts,” said Dmitry Peskov. “However, they are and should be maintained in complete information silence … so, there can be no announcements, statements or new information on the subject.”


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