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Russia: Designation of WSJ reporter as wrongfully detained is irrelevant


Reporter for U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich appears in this handout picture taken in Moscow, Russia, 2019. The Moscow Times/Handout via REUTERS

A senior Russian official said on Wednesday that the United States’ designation of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” meant nothing to Russia and would not change its approach to his case, the TASS news agency reported.

Russia’s FSB security agency arrested Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, at the end of March and has charged him with espionage charges that carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence.

His arrest brought an outcry from the Wall Street Journal, U.S. President Joe Biden, other media organisations and rights groups.

A Moscow court next week will hear an appeal by Gershkovich’s legal team against a ruling that he be held in pre-trial detention at Moscow’s Lefortovo prison until at least May 29.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia was currently considering granting U.S. diplomats consular access to Gershkovich, who has so far had only minimal contact with his legal team since his detention two weeks ago. But he criticised U.S. attempts to “pressure” Moscow over the issue.

“We will not tolerate any attempts to pressure us, and it has no significance what status they assign to this person in Washington. We will act in accordance with our own internal needs, norms and laws that apply in this situation, and nothing more,” TASS quoted Ryabkov as saying.

Biden spoke to Gershkovich’s family by telephone on Tuesday and said Washington was doing “everything in its power” to secure Gershkovich’s release. He is the first American reporter jailed in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War.