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They claim that Russia held the Wall Street Journal journalist as a hostage for a prisoner swap

Russia announced on Thursday the arrest for “espionage” of the American journalist Evan Gershkovicfrom the Wall Street Journal, in a context of repression since the start of the offensive against Ukraine.

For the independent Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya, the FBS (the former KGB) could have taken the journalist “as a hostage” in view of a prisoner exchange.

His detention supposes a serious escalation in the Kremlin’s efforts to censor those you consider criticala crackdown that gained momentum after the start of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine last year.

The arrest also comes as several Western countries are uncovering and arresting Russian spies, including a couple posing as Argentines in Slovenia.

The Kremlin assured, without giving details, that Evan Gershkovich was “caught red-handed” and warned Washington not to retaliate against Russian media in the United States.




The Kremlin assured, without giving details, that Evan Gershkovich was “caught red-handed.” Photo: Reuters

The Russian federal security service indicated that it “thwarted the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich (…) Moscow office correspondent of the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal”, which he accuses of “spying for the US government”.

The Wall Street Journal, which said it was “deeply concerned about security” of Gershkovich, denied the accusations against his reporter and requested his “immediate release”.

“A retaliatory measure”

The NGO Reporters Without Borders declared itself “alarmed” by “what appears to be a retaliatory measure“Journalists must not be targeted!” he urged.

The crime of espionage is punishable in Russia with penalties from 10 to 20 years in prisonaccording to article 276 of the penal code.

The Wall Street Journal, which said it was "deeply concerned about security" from Gershkovich.  Photo: AFP


The Wall Street Journal, which said it was “deeply concerned for the safety” of Gershkovich. Photo: AFP

Russian authorities confirmed that 31-year-old Evan Gershkovich was working under a press accreditation issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

They added that he was arrested for collect information “about a company in the Russian military-industrial complex.”

Arrested in Yekaterinburg

“The foreigner was detained in Yekaterinburg when he was trying to obtain classified information,” the FSB detailed, referring to that city in central Russia located 1,800 kilometers east of Moscow.

“The problem is that the new Russian legislation (…) allows imprisoning for 20 years anyone who just be interested in military affairs“, declared on social networks the independent Russian political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya in reaction to the arrest of the reporter.

Evan Gershkovich could be a "hostage" for an eventual prisoner exchange.  Photo: .Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP


Evan Gershkovich could be a “hostage” for an eventual prisoner exchange. Photo: .Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP

Before joining the Wall Street Journal in 2022, Gershkovich, who speaks Russian perfectly, he worked for AFP in Moscow and previously for The Moscow Times, an English-language news website.

His family emigrated from Russia to the United States. When I was a kid.

The espionage arrest of a foreign journalist is unprecedented in recent Russian history.

Various US citizens are currently in prison in Russia and both Washington and Moscow have accused each other of carrying out arrests for political reasons.

Among them is Paul Whelana 53-year-old ex-marine arrested in 2018, who is serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage.

Paul Whelan, a 53-year-old ex-marine detained in 2018. Photo: Reuters


Paul Whelan, a 53-year-old ex-marine detained in 2018. Photo: Reuters

In the last year there have been several high-level prisoner exchanges between the two countries.

In December, Moscow released American basketball star Brittney Griner, detained for smuggling cannabis oil into the country, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

The Russian press and journalists critical of the Kremlin are often subject to criminal prosecution in Russia, something foreign journalists were generally spared as Moscow opted instead to expel them or tighten accreditation rules.

American basketball star Brittney Griner.  Photo: AFP


American basketball star Brittney Griner. Photo: AFP

However, since the launch of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, the Russian authorities have stepped up the crackdown on the opposition and independent media.

At the same time, for foreign journalists the conditions for issuing accreditations have been tightenedon which visas depend.

Foreign reporters too are sometimes followed by security services during his reporting, especially outside of Moscow.

In this context, many Western media have significantly reduced their presence in Russia since the entry of Russian forces into Ukraine in February 2022.

AFP

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