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Russia puts Gershkovich on trial

Evan Gershkovich has been in custody in Russia for more than a year. The authorities had previously only accused the US reporter of espionage, without giving any details. Now the public prosecutor's office has clarified its accusations.

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia for more than a year on espionage charges, is to be tried in the city of Yekaterinburg, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office in Moscow announced.

According to the report, the charges against the Wall Street Journal reporter have been finalized. The case will be heard in the regional court in Yekaterinburg in the Urals.

Public prosecutor: Espionage on behalf of the CIA

The Prosecutor General's Office accused Gershkovich of gathering secret information about a facility in Sverdlovsk, which was concerned with the production and repair of military equipment at the Uralvagonzavod factory in Nizhny Tagil.

According to the agency, Gershkovich acted on behalf of the US foreign intelligence service CIA. According to the news agency Interfax, a spokesman said that Gershkovich followed all the rules of conspiracy in his illegal actions.

This was the first time that concrete accusations were made against the US citizen, but without providing any evidence. There was also no information about when the trial against Gershkovich would begin.

Arrested on research trip in Yekaterinburg

The 32-year-old Gershkovich was arrested on charges of espionage on a research trip in Yekaterinburg at the end of March 2023 and has been in custody in Moscow ever since. This has already been extended several times. The reporter, his employer and the US government have denied the espionage allegations.

After Gershkovich's arrest, the Russian secret service FSB had already claimed that he had acted on orders from the USA to collect state secrets – but the secret service did not provide any evidence at that time either.

Washington's offer rejected

Gershkovich is the first US reporter to be arrested in Russia on espionage charges since 1986. US President Joe Biden has promised to stand up for him. Gershkovich is seen as a bargaining chip that Moscow can use to put pressure on the US. The reporter's arrest was also seen as a warning to foreign correspondents who are still working in Russia despite the war against Ukraine.

In December, the White House announced that Moscow had rejected an offer from Washington to secure the release of the journalist and another American in custody, Paul Whelan. Details of the offer were not disclosed.

Putin hinted at possible exchange

Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of an exchange in an interview at the beginning of February. “It makes no sense to keep him in prison in Russia,” he said. The USA should think about how it could contribute to a solution.

Putin's statements could be interpreted as referring to the release of the Tiergarten murderer Vadim K., who was convicted in December 2021. He murdered a Chechen exile in Berlin in 2019. K. is said to have committed the murder on behalf of Russian state authorities. However, the two cases have nothing to do with each other and concern different countries.

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