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Russian court rejects new appeal by US reporter Evan Gershkovich

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A Russian court on Tuesday rejected the latest in a series of appeals by Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention on charges of espionage.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is in custody on espionage charges, speaks with a lawyer while standing behind a glass wall of an enclosure for defendants before a court hearing in Moscow, Russia, April 23, 2024. Reuters/Tatyana Makeyeva

A Russian court on Tuesday rejected the latest in a series of appeals by Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich against his pre-trial detention on charges of espionage.

Gershkovich, 32, became the first U.S. journalist arrested on spying charges in Russia since the Cold War when he was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29 last year. He, his newspaper and the U.S. government all deny he is a spy.

No date has yet been set for his trial. His detention was last month extended by three months to June 30 in a hearing that was closed to the press. But on Tuesday journalists were allowed to film Gershkovich as he stood in a glass box in the courtroom and smiled and waved at media colleagues.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Gershkovich replied "All clear" when asked by the judge whether he understood the court's decision.

The newspaper said in a statement: "It continues to be outrageous that Evan has been wrongfully detained by the Russian government for more than a year."

It added: "Evan’s freedom is long overdue, and we urge the (Biden) administration to do everything in their power to secure his release.”

Gershkovich, who was accredited by the Russian Foreign Ministry to work in Russia as a journalist, was arrested during a trip to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

He has been held for more than a year at Moscow's high-security Lefortovo prison, which is closely associated with the FSB. The United States has accused Russia of using him for the purpose of "hostage diplomacy".

"We will continue to denounce and impose costs for Russia's appalling attempts to use Americans as bargaining chips," President Joe Biden said last month on the anniversary of Gershkovich's arrest.

President Vladimir Putin has said Gershkovich could be released at some point in exchange for a Russian prisoner held abroad, but no such deal has so far materialised.

The Kremlin says it has "certain contacts" with the U.S. about his case but that it will not comment in public about negotiations over a potential exchange.

Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, an American convicted of spying against Russia and sentenced to 16 years in 2020, have both been designated by the U.S. State Department as "wrongfully detained", meaning Washington considers the charges against them bogus and is committed to working for their release.

 Writing by Mark Trevelyan

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