Moscow court hears appeal by WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March while on a reporting trip and charged with espionage, stands behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing to consider an appeal against his detention, in Moscow, Russia April 18, 2023. Reuters

A Moscow court on Tuesday rejected an appeal from U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich to be freed from pre-trial detention, meaning he will stay in a former KGB prison until at least May 29 while a spying case against him is investigated.

Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, denies the espionage charges. He looked calm and smiled as he stood in a glass and metal cage before the ruling, wearing a checked shirt, with his arms folded.

His legal team had asked that he be freed on bail of 50 million roubles ($614,000) supplied by his publisher Dow Jones or placed under house arrest, his lawyer Tatiana Nozhkina said.

"He's in a combative mood," Nozhkina told reporters outside the court. "He is ready to defend himself and to show that he is innocent."

Before the hearing got under way, Gershkovich turned around when one of the Russian reporters in the courtroom told him to "Stay strong!" and relayed to him that everyone said "Hi".

A masked man with "FSB" written on his black uniform stood beside the cage as the judge rejected the appeal. U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy stood just metres away, watching the proceedings with a handful of foreign and Russian reporters who were admitted to the courtroom.

When asked by the judge if he needed translation, Gershkovich said in Russian that he understood everything. His lawyers said they would appeal the decision.

The Journal said it had expected the appeal to be turned down but was nonetheless disappointed.

"Evan is wrongfully detained and the charges of espionage against him are false," Almar Latour, CEO of Dow Jones, and Emma Tucker, editor in chief of the Journal, said in a statement.

"We demand his immediate release and are doing everything in our power to secure it."


Russia's FSB security service arrested Gershkovich on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on espionage charges that carry a possible 20-year prison sentence, for collecting what it said were state secrets about the military industrial complex.

The Kremlin has said Gershkovich, the first U.S. journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War, was caught "red-handed".

The United States has deemed him "wrongfully detained," his employer and colleagues have said he is innocent, and President Joe Biden has called his detention illegal.

"He is reading a lot in prison - Russian literature in the original Russian," Nozhkina told Reuters, adding that he was reading Leo Tolstoy's masterpiece "War and Peace" about the French invasion of Russia in 1812.

Asked about the prison food, Nozhkina said Gershkovich was being given porridge in the mornings and that the food was normal.

Tuesday's hearing did not address the substance of the charges as the investigation is still in progress.

Gershkovich, a son of Soviet emigres, is being held at Lefortovo prison, which in Soviet times was run by the KGB but is now operated by the Federal Penitentiary Service.

Traditionally it has been used to hold those suspected of spying and other grave crimes.

Yaroslav Shirshikov, a political expert in Yekaterinburg whom Gershkovich interviewed in mid-March and had been due to meet again, was reported on Tuesday to have been charged with inciting terrorism.

The news outlet Yekaterinburg Online quoted Shirshikov's lawyer Fyodor Akchermyshev as saying he had been charged over publicly expressed views on the killing of the pro-war military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky in St Petersburg this month.

Shirshikov acknowledged publishing the statements in question but denied ever justifying or supporting terrorism, the lawyer said. ($1 = 81.3420 roubles)

(Editing by Peter Graff, Gareth Jones, Angus MacSwan and Deepa Babington)