By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
MOSCOW (Worthy News) – A Moscow court ruled Monday that the Wall Street Journal paper reporter Evan Gershkovich, the first American journalist held in Russia since the end of the Cold War, must remain in pre-trial detention.
Gershkovich lost his appeal against the detention after he was arrested on spying charges as part of what critics view as a Kremlin crackdown on dissent and press freedom amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Gershkovich, his paper, his family, and the U.S. government have vehemently denied the spying allegations.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on March 30 it detained Gershkovich in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and had opened an espionage case against him for collecting what it claimed were “state secrets about the military-industrial complex.”
Gershkovich, 31, appeared to be in good spirits, smiling and winking at people he recognized in the courtroom, trial observers said.
Hours earlier, the Kremlin said that Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to occupied areas of southern and eastern Ukraine in one of the closest trips to the fighting he has made so far.
His tour was described as a show of force as Ukrainian troops prepared for an anticipated counteroffensive backed by Western weapons and at least some special Western forces.
During Putin’s visit, which took place on Monday, he received reports from military commanders about the state of the battlefield, the Kremlin said in a statement.
He traveled on a military helicopter to the southern region of Kherson, video footage showed. He was also said to have visited an army headquarters in the eastern region of Luhansk.
COMPETING FOR ATTENTION
Yet Putin competed for attention with international media also focused on the appeal hearing in Moscow where journalist Gershkovich was seen in a checked shirt with his arms folded in front of him. He did not say anything.
Trial observers said the hearing covered whether and how Gershkovich should be detained as he awaits trial, not about the substance of the charges. Russian investigators were still working on the details of the case.
Gershkovich, the American son of Soviet-born Jews who fled to the West in 1979, was detained by the FSB on March 29, shortly after he arrived at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg during his second trip to the Urals in a month.
He was moved to the Lefortovo prison, which in Soviet times was reportedly run by the KGB but is now operated by the Federal Penitentiary Service.
Traditionally it has been used to hold those suspected by the FSB of spying and other grave crimes, according to sources familiar with the situation.
The Kremlin maintained that Gershkovich was carrying out espionage “under the cover” of journalism. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the United States that Gershkovich was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secrets, sources said.
However, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, Lynne Tracy, confirmed Monday she had made her first visit to see Gershkovich. “He feels well and is holding up. We reiterate our call for Evan’s immediate release,” Tracy added.
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