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Russia units date for closed-door trial of US journalist | Russia-Ukraine conflict Information


Evan Gershkovich was detained in March 2023 for allegedly ‘spying’ on a Russian defence enterprise in Yekaterinburg.

Russia will hold a closed-door trial for detained US reporter Evan Gershkovich later this month, a court in the city of Yekaterinburg has announced.

The Sverdlovsk Regional Court said on Monday that the first hearing, scheduled for June 26, will occur “behind closed doors”. Meanwhile, the Kremlin has suggested that it would be open to a prisoner swap.

The court said that the reporter, who was working for The Wall Street Journal when he was arrested in the Siberian city last year, is accused of collecting “secret information” in March 2023 “on the instructions of the CIA”.

According to the charges, which carry a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison, the journalist was spying on the production and repair of military equipment at the defence enterprise JSC NPK Uralvagonzavod when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

‘Outrageous’

Following last week’s announcement that Gershkovich would stand trial for his “CIA work”, The Wall Street Journal said the reporter was facing “a false and baseless charge” based on “calculated and transparent lies”.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” read a letter co-signed by publisher Almar Latour and editor-in-chief Emma Tucker.

“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.”

Latour and Tucker said they expected the US government to increase efforts to secure his release.

Gershkovich has also appealed his detention several times, but his attempts have been fruitless.

The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees and Wall Street Journal journalists rally in Washington, DC, on April 12, 2023 [Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP]

The arrest of the first American journalist to be detained on spy charges in Russia since the Cold War shocked Western news organisations, leaving almost no US reporters in Russia.

The White House has called the charges “ridiculous”, with President Joe Biden adding that the detention was “totally illegal”.

Russia said the reporter was caught “red-handed”.

Prisoner swap

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there has been contact with Washington about a potential prisoner swap for the reporter but insisted that those meetings should be held away from the media.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined on Monday to comment on why Gershkovich’s trial was to be closed, saying it was a court decision.

Russia conducts some of its most secret weapons production and research at the Uralvagonzavod enterprise based in Nizhny Tagil, on which Gershkovich is accused of conducting espionage.

The enterprise – part of Rostec, Russia’s vast defence corporation run by Putin-ally Sergei Chemezov which is under US sanctions – has publicly spoken about producing T-90M battle tanks and modernising T-72B3M tanks.

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