Russia Asks Court to Extend Pre-Trial Detention for Jailed American Journalist

Russia on Wednesday requested that the pre-trial detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich be extended. 

The Wall Street Journal reporter’s current detention period is set to expire on August 30. The 31-year-old journalist has been in Russian custody since his arrest on March 29. 

Russia accuses Gershkovich of espionage, a charge that he, the newspaper and U.S. officials deny. 

In a request submitted Wednesday, Russian authorities requested that Gershkovich be detained for an unspecified period, The Wall Street Journal reported. 

Russian state media have reported that a Moscow court is due to hold a hearing Thursday on the request. 

“Evan’s wrongful detention is outrageous, and we continue to demand his immediate release,” The Wall Street Journal said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Few visits since arrest

Since his arrest, Gershkovich has been allowed only three consular visits with U.S. officials. 

The most recent was August 14, when he met with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy.

“Ambassador Tracy reported that Evan continues to be in good health and remains strong, despite the circumstances,” the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said in a statement. 

In July, Moscow said officials were in contact with Washington about a possible prisoner swap. 

‘Serious about a prisoner exchange’

President Joe Biden said his administration is “serious about a prisoner exchange,” but the White House has also said discussions with the Kremlin on a potential swap have not yet given way to “a pathway to a resolution.” 

Clayton Weimers, executive director of the U.S. bureau of Reporters Without Borders, told VOA earlier in August that Gershkovich’s case shows that the U.S. needs a better strategy to respond to the threat of these issues. 

“The United States, and indeed democracies around the world, need to find ways to raise the cost of this kind of bad business,” Weimers said. “How do we impose stiffer penalties to disincentivize hostage-taking in the first place?” 

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