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Wall Street Journal reporter detained on espionage charges, caught red-handed — Kremlin

Dmitry Peskov confirmed that the Kremlin was familiar with Gershkovich's publications
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov Sergei Savostyanov/TASS
Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov
© Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, detained by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Yekaterinburg on espionage charges, was caught red-handed, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

"This is, you know, the prerogative of the FSB. They have already made a statement. <...> We have nothing to add here. The only thing I can add is that, as far as we know, he was caught red-handed," he said, responding to a question about how the Kremlin felt about the situation with the detention of Gershkovich.

The Kremlin spokesman expressed hope that this would not be followed by the closure of Russian corps offices in the United States. "It shouldn't be, because, once again, we are not talking about suspicion, we are talking about the fact that he was detained red-handed," he pointed out.

Peskov does not see any problems for other Wall Street Journal reporters who are engaged in journalism to continue their work in Russia. "Those who conduct appropriate journalistic activities, naturally given they have valid accreditation, will be able to continue working", he assured in response to a question whether the remaining journalists may be deported from the Russian Federation or they may stay in the country.

The Kremlin spokesman confirmed that the Kremlin was familiar with Gershkovich's publications. "Of course, we monitor foreign media, we do it daily, so we know his publications," he said. When asked about his attitude toward these publications, Peskov said, "We take into account what is published."

Details and possibility of swap

Peskov did not answer further questions about the journalist's detention. "I can't elaborate, I don't have the details. This is the prerogative of the special services, whose task is precisely the activity of spies," he explained.

The Kremlin spokesman was also asked if the detention could be a response to the situation around Russian national Sergey Cherkasov and a ground for possible prisoner swap talks with Washington. "I have no such information, I have nothing to say on the subject," Peskov replied.

US authorities allege that Russian national Sergey Cherkasov, currently serving a prison sentence in Brazil, had acted in the US for Russian intelligence and was involved in fraud and money laundering.

Reporter’s detention and reaction

Earlier on Thursday, the FSB Public Relations Center told TASS that FSB officers had detained Evan Gershkovich, an American citizen born in 1991, accredited at the Russian Foreign Ministry and working as a correspondent for the Moscow office of The Wall Street Journal, on suspicion of espionage. According to the FSB, it was "established that Gershkovich, acting as an agent for the American side, collected top-secret data about the activity of an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex."

Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote in her Telegram channel on Thursday that "the employee of the American publication The Wall Street Journal was doing in Yekaterinburg had nothing to do with journalism". "Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the status of a ‘foreign correspondent’, a journalist visa, and accreditation have been used by foreign nationals in our country to cover up activities that are not journalism. This is not the first famous Western individual who has been caught red-handed," the diplomat said.

"The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich," a statement published on Thursday on the newspaper’s website read.