Kremlin spokesman Dimtry Peskov told a news briefing that the journalist had been “caught red handed.”
Russian authorities said Thursday they had arrested a U.S. journalist with The Wall Street Journal on spying charges. Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of “espionage in the interests of the American government,” the Federal Security Service (FSB) said in a statement, which was reported by state media.
The FSB accused Gershkovich of collecting “information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.” It provided no evidence or further details on when Gershkovich was arrested. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Gershkovich is the first journalist with an American outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War.
His arrest comes amid high tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and as the Kremlin cracks down internally on free speech.
It also comes following the high-profile prisoner swap involving WNBA star Brittney Griner.
According to NPR,
Russia’s Kommersant daily newspaper, said Gershkovich would soon be transported to Moscow’s Lefortovo prison, the FSB’s pre-trial detention facility.
The Wall Street Journal issued a statement denying the charges and says it is “deeply concerned about the safety” of Gershkovich. Russia has introduced a slew of new restrictive laws surrounding media and information amid the war in Ukraine.