(MOSCOW) — Friday marks journalist and U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich’s 100th day being detained by Russian government authorities.
The 31-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter has sat in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison for more than three months, held on espionage charges — charges he and the outlet vehemently deny. The U.S. has said Gershkovich is being “wrongfully detained.”
Gershkovich, who has lived and worked as an accredited journalist in Moscow for the last six years, was in a restaurant in Yekaterinburg, a cosmopolitan city about 1,000 miles from the country’s capital, when Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested him on March 29.
Russian investigators have since alleged Gershkovich was “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex” and “trying to obtain secret information” at the time of his arrest. Gershkovich has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted in a case that is marked “top secret.”
The WSJ and friends, as well as people he interviewed in Yekaterinburg, have said Gershkovich was working on a story about Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary military organization Wagner Group, who just last month led a short-lived rebellion against the Russian government after leaving the front lines of Ukraine.
Gershkovich’s arrest, which foreign policy experts speculate was spurred by political motivations, came at a time of increased tension between the U.S. and Russia over the war in Ukraine. And, as Danielle Gilbert, a foreign policy fellow at Dartmouth College who specializes in hostage diplomacy, told ABC News in April, his arrest had “suspicious” timing. The American journalist was taken into custody days after Sergey Cherkasov, a Russian national accused by the Department of Justice of operating as an illegal agent for the country’s intelligence service, was charged by the U.S.
This week, the Kremlin indicated it might be open to discussing a possible prisoner swap, just like it did with WNBA star Brittney Griner and U.S. marine Trevor Reed.
Gershkovich isn’t the only high-profile American arrest in Russia. Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan is four years into a 16-year prison sentence on espionage charges, though President Joe Biden’s administration vowed in December 2022 to continue efforts to bring him home.
Gershkovich, who has not been convicted of a crime, was denied his appeal for release by a Moscow court, which ruled last month he must stay in jail until Aug. 30.
Friends of Gershkovich, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, and the son of Soviet Union immigrants Ella and Mikhail Gershkovich, have said they were stunned by his imprisonment.
“It was earth-shattering,” Sam Patterson, who was roommates with Gershkovich in their senior year at Maine’s Bowdoin College, told ABC News in April. “It’s something that we had asked Evan about, whether he was ever concerned about something like this happening, and so to see his name on a New York Times news alert, I just couldn’t believe it. I really could not believe it.”
Thatcher Foster, who met Gershkovich playing soccer when they were 6-year-olds, previously told ABC News the two had recently joked about which of their friends’ weddings Gershkovich would attend this summer since he had at least three, including Foster’s, in June.
“It’s hard to process … because it’s Evan, our really smart, caring friend who four days before we were FaceTiming, asking him what wedding he was going to come to this summer,” he said in April. “He was very apologetic that he couldn’t make all three.”
ABC News’ Shannon K. Crawford and Libby Cathey contributed to this report.
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