Wall Street Journal Reporter Held in Russia on Spying Charges Denied Bail by Moscow Court

Evan Gershkovich was calm but stressed in his first public appearance since his March 29 arrest

Getty Images

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was seen in public for the first time Tuesday since his arrest, as a Moscow court upheld his detention following a brief hearing.

The 31-year-old was denied bail at the procedural hearing and ordered held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison until at least May 29 while Russia investigates espionage charges against him, Reuters reported.

Lefortovo, a former KGB prison, is often used to house prominent political prisoners.

Gershkovich appeared at the hearing in a transparent box, known as a dock, that is used to hold defendants in Russian courts. Wearing jeans and a checked shirt, he appeared healthy but pale. He was calm, with his arms crossed over his chest, during the hearing, but earlier appeared stressed as he paced back and forth in the small space.

Before the hearing got underway, Gershkovich turned around when one of the Russian reporters in the courtroom told him to “Stay Strong!” and relayed to him that everyone said “Hi,” in a video you can watch below.

The judge asked at the start of the procedure if he needed translation, but Gershkovich said he was able to follow along in Russian.

His Russian lawyer, Tatiana Nozhkina, had sought bail of 50 million roubles, about $614,000, or house arrest. She said the court rejected both requests.

The reporter faces up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted. “Virtually all espionage trials in Russia end in a guilty verdict,” the Journal noted.

The news organization and the U.S. government vehemently deny that Gershovich is a spy.

The U.S. government last week designated Gershkovich as wrongfully detained and called for his immediate release. U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy attended the hearing Tuesday, a day after she was allowed access to Gershkovich for the first time since his March 29 arrest.

“The charges are baseless and we call on the Russian federation to immediately release” Gershkovich, Tracy said in a statement to reporters on the courthouse steps after the hearing. She also called for the release of Paul Whelan, another American also held by Russia on spying charges.

Russian authorities say Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” collecting state secrets about the military-industrial complex when he was arrested while on a reporting trip in the Ural Mountains, about 900 miles west of Moscow.

His lawyer, Nozhkina, told reporters Gershkovich was reading Russian literature. “He’s in a combative mood,” she said, “denies he is guilty, and is ready to prove it.”