Wall Street Journal (WSJ) correspondent Evan Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” trying to obtain Russian state secrets, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has claimed. The journalist was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the city of Ekaterinburg on Thursday.
Speaking to journalists via conference call, Peskov was asked to comment on the arrest of the American citizen and whether Russia will cooperate with US security services on the issue. The spokesperson stated that he does not know the full details of the case and that the matter remains in the hands of the FSB.
However, Peskov claimed that as far as he was aware, Gershkovich had been caught in the act of trying to collect intelligence about a defense facility, in violation of Russian laws on state secrets. The correspondent, who covers news from Russia, Ukraine, and the former USSR, could face between 10 and 20 years in prison if charged with espionage.
Although Gershkovich had obtained the necessary journalistic credentials from the Foreign Ministry to work in Russia, the FSB alleges that he “acted in the interest of the US government” when he was caught during “an attempt to receive” classified intelligence.
Asked if the incident could provoke a response from US authorities regarding Russian journalists working in America, Peskov said that Moscow hopes no such retaliation will follow because “we are not talking about allegations here. He was caught in the act.”
The WSJ has reacted to the incident by stating that it is “deeply concerned for the safety of Mr Gershkovich.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said that the issue of potentially exchanging the WSJ journalist in a swap deal has not been raised.
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has claimed that whatever Gershkovich was doing when he was detained by the FSB, it had “nothing to do with journalism.” She argued that the status of correspondent had previously been used as cover by other Western nationals attempting to obtain classified Russian intelligence.
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