WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich arrested for collecting information about PMC Wagner

WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich arrested in Yekaterinburg for espionage

In Yekaterinburg, the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) detained a correspondent of The Wall Street Journal, a US-based publication, RIA Novosti reports on Thursday, March 30.

The correspondent was identified as Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old employee of the Moscow office of the American publication.

It was said that the man was arrested for espionage. The correspondent is suspected of collecting state secret materials for the US about a Russian defense industry enterprise.

Correspondent's acquaintances said that he was interested in information about PMC Wagner.

According to the FSB, "Evan Gershkovich, acting on instructions from the American side, was collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.”

Gershkovich was detained "while trying to obtain secret information," the FSB also said.

Yaroslav Shirshikov, a publicity officer from Yekaterinburg, reported Gershkovich's disappearance on the morning of March 30. Shirshikov, who knew Gershkovich in person, said that Gershkovich left his phone at the WSJ office "in case something happens to him.” WSJ employees contacted Shirshikov at night and told him that they lost connection with the reporter.

On the evening of March 29, eyewitnesses reported the detention of an unidentified individual near Bukowski Grill restaurant on Karl Liebknecht Street, the Vechernye Vedomosti publication said.

"Supposedly, security officers dressed in civilian clothes ordered the man to follow them into their van. As they were leading the detained person, they pulled a sweater over his head so that no one could see his face," the Vechernye Vedomosti wrote.

Shirshikov wrote that he had earlier visited the restaurant with Gershkovich the day before.

Evan Gershkovich covers events in Russia and Ukraine for The Wall Street Journal. He has been residing in Moscow for the past six years.

Yekaterinburg's It's My City publication wrote that Evan Gershkovich came in the city a few weeks ago, and then returned to the city last Wednesday to finalize his project. In the article, the reporter in particular wrote about the society's attitude towards PMC Wagner, Shirshikov also said.

“Evan went to Yekaterinburg to write about people's attitude towards the war and about the recruitment of local residents in PMC Wagner,” journalist Dmitry Kolezev said. 

According to the Kommersant, Gershkovich is to be taken to Moscow. The decision on his arrest will be considered at Lefortovo Court, whereas his espionage case is handled by the central apparatus of the FSB.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said that the WSJ reporter was arrested red-handed. 

“This is a prerogative of the FSB. <...> As far as we know, he was caught red-handed. <…> This is not about suspicion, he was caught red-handed," Peskov told reporters. 

The Wall Street Journal demanded the journalist be released immediately. 

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Author`s name Petr Ermilin
Editor Dmitry Sudakov