US Journalist Evan Gershkovich Ordered to Stand Trial in Russia on Spying Charges

US Journalist Evan Gershkovich Ordered to Stand Trial in Russia on Spying Charges
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on Sept. 19, 2023. (Dmitry Serebryakov/AP Photo)

Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen and reporter for The Wall Street Journal who has been detained in Russia for more than a year, will stand trial on allegations he secretly spied on Russia on behalf of the CIA.

Members of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Mr. Gershkovich, 32, on March 29, 2023, while he was on assignment in Yekaterinburg for The Wall Street Journal. He has remained in Russian custody for more than a year since the arrest.

The FSB alleged that Mr. Gershkovich was attempting to obtain classified information concerning Russia at the time of his arrest.

On Thursday, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia announced it had finished reviewing an indictment for espionage against Mr. Gershkovich.

The translated press statement from the Russian prosecutor general’s office said it had concluded Mr. Gershkovich, “on instructions from the CIA,” had collected secretive information about the activities of a Russian military equipment production and repair facility in the Sverdlovsk region. The prosecutor general’s office said it has since referred the case to the Sverdlovsk Regional Court.

The Russian prosecutor general’s announcement clears the way for Mr. Gershkovich’s case to go to trial. The trial start date wasn’t given.

Mr. Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.

The Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have maintained that Mr. Gershkovich is innocent of the espionage allegations. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the spying claims against Mr. Gershkovich “ridiculous” in a press briefing the day after the arrest, and the U.S. State Department said he was wrongfully detained on April 10, 2023.

Mr. Gershkovich was born in 1991 to Russian immigrants to the United States. He had bylines on several articles for The New York Times from 2016 to 2017. He also later worked for The Moscow Times from 2017 to 2020 and for Agence France-Presse (AFP) from 2020 onward until he joined The Wall Street Journal in January 2022.

Mr. Gershkovich’s last article for The Wall Street Journal, which the publication published a day before his arrest on March 28, 2023, was titled “Russia’s Economy Is Starting to Come Undone” and described signs of economic regression within Russia. The article, at points, emphasized the Russian government’s efforts to expand the production of military equipment to meet demand stemming from the large-scale military operation it launched against Ukraine the year prior.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” Dow Jones CEO Almar Latour and The Wall Street Journal’s Editor-in-Cheif Emma Tucker said in a joint press statement on June 13.

They added that the charges against Mr. Gershkovich were “false and baseless.”

“The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting, and based on calculated and transparent lies. Journalism is not a crime. Evan’s case is an assault on free press,” the statement continued. “We had hoped to avoid this moment and now expect the U.S. government to redouble efforts to get Evan released.”

The press freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders also denounced the new indictment in a June 13 press statement and called for Russian authorities to drop the espionage case and release Mr. Gershkovich.

Mr. Gershkovich is one of several Americans currently held in Russian custody.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Gordon C. Black was arrested in the southeastern Russian port city of Vladivostok on theft charges after he traveled to the country during his transition period between duty stations in South Korea and Texas.

Last October, Russian authorities arrested Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, alleging she failed to register as a foreign agent.

Retired U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been detained in Russia since December 2018. Like Mr. Gershkovich, he was arrested and charged with spying, even as the U.S. government insisted he was being wrongfully detained. A Russian jury found Mr. Whelan guilty of the charges in July 2020, and a court sentenced him to 16 years in prison.

Other U.S. citizens detained in Russia include Travis Leake, a musician who had been living in Russia for years and was arrested last year on drug-related charges; Marc Fogel, a teacher in Moscow, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison, also on drug charges; and dual national Ksenia Khavana.

Efforts to win the release of U.S. citizens detained in Russia are complicated by the strained relations between the two countries.

President Joe Biden’s administration arranged the release of WNBA basketball player Brittney Griner in December 2022. In return for Ms. Griner, the United States released Russian national Viktor Bout, who at the time had been serving a 25-year prison sentence following a 2011 conviction by a U.S. jury on charges of arms smuggling and conspiracy to kill Americans.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.