Evan Gershkovich is a U.S. citizen and reporter for the Wall Street Journal covering Russia, Ukraine, and more, per his Twitter profile. He was arrested in Yekaterinburg on Wednesday by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, according to Meduza, a Russian-focused news website.
The security service said Gershkovich, 32, was “acting on the instructions of the American side, carried out the collection of information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” adding that the journalist was detained “while trying to obtain secret information,” per Meduza.
The news outlet reported that the criminal case launched against Gershkovich is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Gershkovich had reportedly traveled to Yekaterinburg, deep into Russian territory and about 900 miles east of Moscow, to report on the Wagner Group.
Support for Gershkovich exploded on Twitter early Thursday morning.
“My friend and thoroughly professional journalist @evangershkovich has been arrested by the FSB on obviously bogus espionage charges. Journalism is not a crime. Evan should be released immediately,” Guardian reporter Pjotr Sauer wrote.
“News that my friend, colleague, and thoroughly professional reporter @evangershkovich has been detained while doing his job in Russia. Hope and trust he’ll be released imminently. Goes w/out saying, journalism is not a crime,” New Yorker journalist Joshua Yaffa tweeted.
Some other journalists are fearful of the precedent that an arrest such as this could cause going forward.
“Details are sparse but this seems very bad. @evangershkovich has lots of experience in Russia, has official accreditation & is obviously not a spy. This could be a game-changer for foreign media still working there,” Alec Luhn wrote.
Gershkovich’s arrest comes as tensions between the U.S. and Russia are already extremely high. Russia is accused of committing war crimes during its invasion of Ukraine, a brutal conflict that shows no sign of stopping soon.
The two world powers already have difficult diplomatic relations. The U.S.’s response to the journalist’s arrest will be noteworthy for how it plans to deal with Russia and its increasingly draconian state.