Skip to main content
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court, in Moscow, Russia,  December 14, 2023. © 2023 Dmitry Serebryakov/AP Photo

On Wednesday, a court process will be opened in the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg against American Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March 2023 on cynically false charges of espionage. Russian President Vladimir Putin has intimated that Gershkovich is being considered for a prisoner exchange, making clear that this trial is a cruel performance that has nothing in common with justice. It’s an outrage against Gershkovich and a grim marker of how far the Kremlin has erased the rule of law in Russia during Putin’s fifth term as president.

In the indictment, Russia authorities claim Gershkovich was “gathering information . . .  on behalf of the CIA.” Gershkovich, now 32, has been behind bars since his arrest and faces up to 20 years.

The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations.

Since Gershkovich’s arrest, Russian courts have spared few efforts to silence most forms of dissent and to shred whatever vestiges had remained of freedom of expression. They have enforced draconian war censorship laws adopted shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine as well as laws on extremism, treason, and “undesirable foreign organizations,” driving many of Russia’s independent media outlets and civic organizations into exile.

At least 489 people have faced prosecution for simply sharing information about the war that departs from the Kremlin’s false narratives or that discusses abuses by Russian forces. A few weeks after Gershkovich’s arrest, a court sentenced prominent Russian opposition politician, Vladimir Kara-Murza, to 25 years on a trifecta of bogus charges. Charges against other critics and journalists have been no less absurd. Before Alexei Navalny’s death in prison, for which Russian authorities bear responsibility, a court had sentenced him to 19 years on extremism and other charges. Another court sentenced one of Russia’s top human rights defenders, Oleg Orlov, to 2 years and 6 months in prison for “repeatedly discrediting” Russia’s armed forces. Alsu Kurmasheva, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been in pretrial custody since her arrest in October 2023 on charges of failing to register as a “foreign agent” and gathering information about Russian armed forces.

Russian theater director Evgeniya Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriychuk are currently on trial on absurd “terrorism justification” charges, which many believe are retaliation for Berkovich’s poems condemning the war. Recently the judge closed the hearing to the public.

Gershkovich’s “trial” will also be closed. Unsurprisingly, authorities haven’t explained why.

Russian authorities should stop this travesty and free Gershkovich immediately. 

Your tax deductible gift can help stop human rights violations and save lives around the world.

Region / Country