American journalist Evan Gershkovich appeared in a Russian court on Tuesday, where his imprisonment was upheld for spying charges, amid Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Gershkovich was behind a protected glass wearing pale blue jeans and a plaid shirt as dozens of journalists crowded together to see the Wall Street Journal reporter for the first time since news of his arrest broke. U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy was also in the room.
The decision by the court means Gershkovich will remain jailed until he faces trial. His lawyers Maria Korchagina and Tatyana Nozhkina said they do not expect any changes until May when the court will consider extending his pre-trial detention.
Gershkovich has been accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory. He and the U.S. government deny all charges. Last week, a U.S. government official said the American reporter was “wrongfully detained” — a designation that means his case receives special attention from the State Department.
If convicted, Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison. Other espionage cases in Russia took a year to 18 months, which means Gershkovich could be cut off from the outside world and loved ones during that time.
“I can only say how troubling it was to see Evan, an innocent journalist held in these circumstances,” Tracy said.
President Joe Biden spoke with Greshkovich’s parents last week and condemned his detention.
“We’re making it really clear that it’s totally illegal what’s happening, and we declared it so,” he said.
The news comes as Moscow cracks down on those critical of Russia and their war with Ukraine. Last month, a Russian court convicted a father over social media posts critical of the war and sentenced him to two years in prison. Prior to that, Vladimir Kara-Murza Jr. was convicted of treason for publicly denouncing the war and sentenced to 25 years in prison.