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The espionage trial of U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia is set to commence behind closed doors on June 26th

Since his arrest in March 2023, Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, has been in custody and could face a 20-year prison sentence if found guilty.

The espionage trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Russia is scheduled to commence on June 26th and will be conducted behind closed doors, according to a statement from the court overseeing the case released on Monday.

Gershkovich, a 32-year-old U.S. citizen, has been incarcerated since his arrest in March 2023 and faces a potential sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

The trial is set to take place at the Sverdlovsky Regional Court in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, where he was initially apprehended. Since then, Gershkovich has been held at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, approximately 870 miles west of Yekaterinburg.

According to the Prosecutor General’s office, Gershkovich is accused of “gathering secret information” on behalf of the CIA concerning Uralvagonzavod, a facility involved in the production and repair of military equipment. This accusation marks the first detailed disclosure of the charges against him.

Both Gershkovich, his employer, and the U.S. government have vehemently denied these allegations, with Washington labeling his detention as wrongful.

The Russian Federal Security Service alleges that Gershkovich acted under orders from the U.S. to gather classified information, although no substantiating evidence has been presented to support these claims.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage at court in Moscow on April 23, 2024.

“Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime,” declared U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller last week. “The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows they’re false. He should be released immediately.”

Despite efforts by the Biden administration to secure Gershkovich’s release through negotiation, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has indicated that any potential prisoner exchange would only be considered following a verdict in the trial.

Uralvagonzavod, situated in Nizhny Tagil about 60 miles north of Yekaterinburg, gained prominence in 2011-2012 as a stalwart supporter of President Vladimir Putin. The plant’s foreman, Igor Kholmanskih, notably appeared on Putin’s annual televised call-in program in December 2011, denouncing mass protests in Moscow and advocating for the suppression of dissent.

President Putin has expressed openness to a resolution that could facilitate Gershkovich’s release, hinting at a potential swap involving a Russian national imprisoned in Germany, likely Vadim Krasikov, serving a life sentence for a 2019 murder in Berlin.

Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first instance of a U.S. journalist detained on espionage charges since Nicholas Daniloff in 1986, during the Cold War era. The news of Gershkovich’s legal predicament has reverberated among the international journalistic community in Russia, highlighting growing concerns over press freedoms amidst tightening restrictions.

In a parallel case, U.S. soldier Gordon Black is currently undergoing trial in Vladivostok on charges of theft and making threats of violence in a dispute with a Russian woman. Black, formerly stationed in South Korea but visiting Vladivostok at the time of the incident, denied the allegation of threatening murder while partially admitting to theft during Monday’s court proceedings, as reported by the state news agency RIA-Novosti.

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