A US journalist working for the Wall Street Journal has been detained in Russia on suspicion of spying for Washington, Russia's FSB security service said on Thursday.
The announcement marks a serious escalation in the Kremlin's efforts to silence perceived critics, a crackdown that gained momentum following Russia's military operation in Ukraine last year.
The FSB said it had "halted the illegal activities of US citizen Evan Gershkovich," saying the Wall Street Journal reporter was "suspected of spying in the interests of the American government".
The Wall Street Journal "vehemently denies" the allegations and said it was "deeply concerned for the safety of Mr. Gershkovich."
International media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it was "alarmed by what looks like retaliation".
RSF said Gershkovich "was investigating the military company Wagner" -- a mercenary group playing a prominent role in Russia's campaign in Ukraine.
The FSB confirmed that Gershkovich, 31, was working with press accreditation issued by the Russian foreign ministry.
It said he had been detained for gathering information on Russia's "military-industrial complex".
"The foreigner was detained in Yekaterinburg while attempting to obtain classified information," the FSB said, referring to a city in central Russia 1,800 kilometres (1,100 miles) east of Moscow.
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