Russian Judge Agrees to Extend Evan Gershkovich’s Detention for Three Months

MOSCOW — Meeting behind closed doorways, a Moscow courtroom on Tuesday prolonged the arrest of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent accused of espionage, for greater than three months, till Aug. 30.

The refusal of bail and the extension of Mr. Gershkovich’s detention have been broadly anticipated, though Russia has introduced no proof to again the espionage accusation. The United States authorities and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently rejected the costs, saying that “reporting is not a crime.”

Mr. Gershkovich’s dad and mom, Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich, waited for greater than an hour exterior the courtroom earlier than being allowed into the listening to. It was their first sighting of their son since his arrest on March 29.

Afterward, they have been whisked away within the firm of one in every of Mr. Gershkovich’s legal professionals. They didn’t touch upon what they’d seen. Ms. Milman wore a “Free Evan” button. Before going into the listening to, Mr. Gershkovich’s father mentioned, “We hope he is doing great and that he can be as strong as his mother.”

Mr. Gershkovich, 31, has been held on the Lefortovo jail since he was detained on March 29 throughout a reporting journey to the central Russian metropolis of Yekaterinburg. If convicted, Mr. Gershkovich would face up to 20 years in a Russian penal colony.

A prisoner alternate, such because the one which secured the discharge of Brittney Griner, an American basketball star, late final 12 months, wouldn’t happen till after a verdict is reached within the case, Russian officers have mentioned. Ms. Griner was held for virtually 10 months on a hashish possession cost. However, the Biden administration is thought to be working to safe an early launch for Mr. Gershkovich.

The United States authorities, The Wall Street Journal, quite a few colleagues, teams supporting press freedom and outstanding worldwide officers have all condemned Mr. Gershkovich’s detention and referred to as the accusations made towards him totally baseless.

The Journal mentioned in a press release following the listening to that although “we expected there would be no change to Evan’s wrongful detention, we are deeply disappointed.”

“The accusations are demonstrably false, and we continue to demand his immediate release,” it mentioned.

A handful of journalists have been allowed into the courthouse however not the courtroom itself. Mr. Gershkovich was hidden from view on coming into and exiting, earlier than being pushed again to Lefortovo jail in a white van with blackened home windows.

American diplomats had mentioned it was virtually sure that Mr. Gershkovich’s detention can be prolonged on the listening to and his software for bail denied. Even at the perfect of instances, a pretrial investigation of an espionage case usually takes months, and a 12 months might elapse earlier than a verdict is reached.

Russian-American relations are in a state of acute stress over the struggle in Ukraine, a battle that’s nonetheless formally referred to in Russia as a “special military operation,” and President Vladimir V. Putin has launched into a drive to suppress impartial information retailers and free speech typically.

In Russia, the phrase “war” has come to be used more and more, however not to describe the invasion of Ukraine ordered by Mr. Putin early final 12 months. Rather, it’s used to characterize a broad confrontation with the West — the United States, NATO and the European Union — from which there’s, within the prevailing Russian view, no turning again.

“Russia has entered a phase of the most acute confrontation with the collective West,” Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian international minister, mentioned final week.

Dmitri. A. Medvedev, the previous Russian president who has turn out to be more and more outspoken in his nationalist outbursts, mentioned on Tuesday that “the more destructive are the weapons supplied to Kyiv, the more likely the scenario of a nuclear apocalypse.”

Before the arrest of Mr. Gershkovich, Russia had not charged a Western journalist with espionage for the reason that Cold War. At a listening to in a Moscow courtroom on April 18, journalists have been allowed to enter and noticed Mr. Gershkovich standing in a glass cage, pink handcuff marks seen on his wrist. He flashed a smile and, via his lawyer, declared his dedication to defend his proper to work freely as an accredited journalist.

Lefortovo jail is notorious for the near-isolation and sometimes harsh circumstances imposed on its inmates. Mr. Gershkovich has been typically remoted, the diplomats mentioned, however his legal professionals have been allowed to see him frequently.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne M. Tracy, was allowed to go to Mr. Gershkovich on April 17, underneath intense Russian scrutiny. The Russian authorities have denied two requests for consular entry since.

Russia has linked this refusal to the denial of American visas final month to Russian journalists who wished to accompany Mr. Lavrov, the international minister, to New York.

That denial seems to go towards each a bilateral treaty between the United States and Russia, and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Two American consular officers have been, after an extended wait, allowed into the courtroom similtaneously Mr. Gershkovich’s dad and mom on Tuesday. Like his dad and mom, they left with out remark.

Dmitri S. Peskov, Mr. Putin’s spokesman, has mentioned that Mr. Gershkovich was caught “red-handed,” however has not elaborated. Russia has not supplied any proof to help the accusation of espionage towards a journalist, the son of Soviet émigrés, whose work mirrored a deep knowledge of the country.

The case, a shock to all accredited international correspondents in Moscow, most of whom have now left, has contributed to the sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and the United States. Mr. Putin’s regime had been hardening its repressive rule for a few years, largely eliminating political alternate options and cultivating a local weather of concern. It has accelerated that course of underneath the stress of the battle in Ukraine.

Mr. Putin has not hesitated to smother criticism of the struggle by making it punishable with lengthy jail sentences. His clampdown has prompted an exodus of the struggle’s critics and of many Russians uneasy over, or appalled by, their nation’s course.

Earlier this 12 months a Moscow courtroom sentenced Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Kremlin critic and Washington Post contributor, to 25 years in jail, one in every of a collection of such extreme verdicts which have clarified how harmful it could be in Russia right this moment to converse one’s thoughts.

Matt Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, informed reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the American authorities didn’t prepare journey for Mr. Gershkovich’s dad and mom to attend his listening to. He added that whereas he might solely think about their ache and their need to see their son, the United States advises all Americans to keep away from touring to Russia.

The Biden administration has asserted that Mr. Gershkovich is “wrongfully detained” — an official dedication that successfully says the United States views him as a political hostage and opens the best way for a variety of steps to safe his launch. The White House has referred to as for him to be freed instantly.

The listening to happened in a Moscow virtually surreal in its purring affluence, the place multiplying billboards interesting for recruits to be part of the Russian armed forces are virtually the one signal of the struggle being fought in Ukraine. The battle has, by American estimates, left greater than 200,000 Russians lifeless or wounded.

Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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