April 7 (UPI) — The Russian government has formally charged Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich with espionage, according to the state news agency Tass.
Gershkovich was detained last Thursday in Yekaterinburg and was charged Friday by the Lefortovo court in Moscow, which ordered him to remain in detention until May 29.
The FSB, Russia’s internal security agency, said Gershkovich “was acting on the U.S. orders to collect information about the actuates of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell issued a joint statement condemning the arrest.
“We demand the baseless, fabricated charges against Mr Gershkovich be dropped and he be immediately released and reiterate our condemnation of the Russian government’s continued attempt to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices,” Schumer and McConnell said in their statement.
The journalism watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said Gershkovich had been investigating the Wagner mercenary group when he was detained.
The Wagner group has spearheaded the Russian advances on the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, according to founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.
The National Press Club confirmed on Tuesday that Gershkovich was allowed to meet with legal representation.
“We were heartened to hear the news that Evan Gershkovich was able to meet today with his attorney in prison. It has been almost a week sine Evan was unjustly detained,” the President of the National Press Club, Eileen O’Reilly, said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal denounced the arrest of their reporter in a statement.
“Evan’s case is a vicious affront to the free press, and should spur outrage in all free people and governments throughout the world,” the WSJ said.
According to the Russian State Tass news agency, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.