The U.S ambassador to Russia and a top Russian diplomat met Thursday to discuss a Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested last week on espionage charges, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
In the meeting with U.S. Ambassador Lynne T. Tracy, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stressed “the serious nature of the charges” against American journalist Evan Gershkovich, according to a ministry statement.
“It was emphasized that he was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information, using his journalistic status as a cover for illegal actions,” the statement said.
The ministry added that “the hype in the United States around this case, which is aimed at putting pressure on the Russian authorities and the court, which should decide the fate of Gershkovich, is hopeless and senseless.”
Gershkovich, 31, was arrested in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city, on March 29. He is the first U.S. correspondent since the Cold War to be detained for alleged spying.
Russia’s Federal Security Service accused Gershkovich of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory. The Journal has denied the accusations.
Lawyers representing Gershkovich met with him Tuesday for the first time since his detention, according to The Wall Street Journal. Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker said the paper was encouraged by the visit and Gershkovich’s family is “relieved to know we finally have contact with Evan.”
“Evan’s health is good, and he is grateful for the outpouring of support from around the world. We continue to call for his immediate release,” Tucker said in a note to the newsroom Tuesday.
Gershkovich was ordered held behind bars for two months in Russia pending an investigation. A Moscow court said Monday that it had received a defense appeal of his arrest; the appeal is to be heard on April 18, Russian news agencies reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Sunday — during a rare phone call between the diplomats since the start of the Ukraine war — to release Gershkovich immediately, as well as another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan.