US demands release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in call with Sergei Lavrov after arrest by Russia | The Sun

THE US has demanded the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich following his outrageous arrest in Russia.

Highly respected correspondent Gershkovich, 31, was detained last week on suspicion of spying.

He has been accused of espionage after covering Vladimir Putin's disastrous invasion of Ukraine and Russia's economic collapse.

But Putin's spies have offered no evidence to support the allegations.

The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the charges and published an article on how the country he loved had turned against him.

His arrest was also strongly condemned by journalists globally who have been showing their support with the hashtag #IStandWithEvan on Twitter.

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Gershkovich was arrested in the remote city of Yekaterinburg and is being held by Putin's FSB security service.

Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, has urged his Russian counterpart to let Gershkovich go in a rare phone call between the two.

Speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Blinken expressed "great concern" over Russia's "unacceptable detention of a US ciyizen journalist".

But Lavrov repeated Russia's outlandish claims that Gershkovich was "caught red-handed attempting to obtain classified information".

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Russia accused Gershkovich of trying to obtain military secrets about a factory on behalf of the US – but it has not named the factory and it has not provided any evidence at all to back up its allegation.

Lavrov also told Blinken that Gershkovich's case will be handled by Russian courts and the US should try not to "make a fuss" or politicse the arrest.

President Joe Biden and organisations around the world have joined editors at the WSJ in rallying for Gershkovich's immediate release.

Gershkovich, described as a "esteemed, principled journalist", is the first reporter for an American news outlet to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Cold War.

The journalist was reportedly held at a restaurant and bundled into a car by plain-clothed officers with a sweater pulled over his head.

He later appeared in court in Moscow, where he pleaded not guilty to espionage.

Gershkovich was seen being led into a van by guards from the Lefortovsky court in the Russian capital.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in jail.

Gershkovich is a US citizen whose parents fled the Soviet Union.

He has lived in Moscow for six years working as a journalist and joined the WSJ in January 2022.

WSJ Editor in Chief Emma Tucker described Gershkovich's arrest as "completely unjust".

She said: "Evan is a member of the free press who right up until he was arrested was engaged in newsgathering. Any suggestions otherwise are false.

"His sole purpose in his work is to capture issues occurring around the world and to shed light on them so that the public can make informed decisions about how to navigate the future.

"We continue to call for his immediate release.

"The unjust arrest of one of our own sits heavy with all of us, and I know for many there are lingering questions about what the Russian government’s actions mean for freedom of the press in the region."

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After relocating to Russia, Gershkovich won awards for his work at The Moscow Times before joining the Agence France-Presse.

After joing WSJ early in 2022, he travelled to the Belarus-Ukraine border as Russia invaded Ukraine, making him the only US reporter who could see thr first injured Russian forces being taken home.

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