Published: June 21, 2024

By Jim Lichtman
Read More

Journalism should never be a crime. Yet, Russia’s dictator, Vladimir Putin, has a different definition.

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist for The Wall Street Journal, will face trial in Russia next week on espionage charges.

“When such espionage cases go to trial in Russia,” Yevgeny Smirnov, a Russian lawyer who has worked on similar cases, told The Times, “they usually take about four months but can take up to a year, and they are typically closed to the news media.”

Gershkovich, who grew up in Russia aspiring to become a journalist, became accredited with The Moscow Times, an independent online newspaper. He has worked at The Wall Street Journal for several years, aiming to report stories about Russia’s culture. However, on March 29, 2023, he was arrested by Russia’s security forces and accused of being a spy for the United States. He has been a political prisoner for 450 days.

Vladimir Putin, like many autocrats, excels at demonstrating his will to the U.S. and the world. According to a report by Charlotte Alter in TIME magazine, certain freedoms in Russia have eroded since Putin invaded Ukraine. Now, Gershkovich, along with former Marine Paul Whelan—similarly accused of spying and imprisoned for six years—have become political pawns.

Alter spoke with Evan’s friend Polina Ivanova, who covers Russia for The Financial Times. “Russia has taken Americans hostage before, but an accredited journalist is another level in terms of what it says about the country’s relationship with the West, or America specifically,” she told Alter. His arrest was a “watershed moment” representing Russia’s disregard for international norms. “It wasn’t that Evan’s work had changed. It was that Russia changed.”

Despite being held in Russia’s Lefortovo prison, known for conditions that can border on psychological torture, Evan maintains a positive attitude, writing letters to his parents and others. Gershkovich is the first American journalist to face espionage charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War. After the invasion of Ukraine, tensions between the U.S. and Putin have dramatically ramped up.

The Journal posted a powerful video featuring several prominent journalists who read Evan’s articles for 24 hours. His colleagues have also created a website with links to follow Gershkovich on Facebook and Twitter and ways to show support:

  • Write Evan a note of support by emailing freegershkovich@gmail.com. It will be translated into Russian, as required by law.
  • The Free Evan GoFundMe has been organized to support Evan’s family financially as they wait to reunite.
  • Follow @FreeGershkovich on Twitter and Instagram for the latest content, updates, and information. When sharing, amplify reach using the hashtags #IStandWithEvan and #FreeEvan.

If found guilty, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in a Russian prison.

Evan Gershkovich stands for honesty and truth. Both are imperiled, both here and abroad.

I will update this story as new information becomes available.


Leave a Comment