Russia will hold Evan Gershkovich’s espionage trial behind closed doors, state media reports

American journalist Evan Gershkovich will stand trial behind closed doors in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg starting on June 26, state-run news agency TASS reported Monday, citing the court’s press service.

Gershkovich, 32, has been imprisoned since he was arrested while on a reporting trip in March last year by the FSB, Russia’s federal security service, which accused him of trying to obtain state secrets. Gershkovich, the US government and his employer, the Wall Street Journal, have vehemently denied the charges against him.

The Russian Prosecutor General’s office said last Thursday it had approved the indictment and referred Gershkovich’s case to a trial court. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

The case will be heard in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court, TASS reported Monday.

A US State Department spokesperson said Monday the US was concerned about reports the trial would be held behind closed doors, but said members of the US Embassy in Russia would try to go to it anyway.

“We will try to attend the trial, as we try to attend the trial of any American citizens who are detained in Russia, but ultimately I don’t have an answer for you yet whether that’s going to be possible,” said the spokesperson Matthew Miller told a press briefing.

Miller said the US would continue to try to free Gershkovich as well as fellow wrongfully detained US citizen and former Marine Paul Whelan.

For more than a year since his arrest, Gershkovich has been imprisoned in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison, and his pre-trial detention period had been extended numerous times. The trial venue of Yekaterinburg is more than 1,100 miles east of the capital.

Miller said he did not know if Gershkovich had yet been moved from Lefortovo to Yekaterinburg.

Last week, Russian prosecutors said the FSB had “established and documented” that Gershkovich was acting on CIA instructions in the month he was arrested, alleging he had “collected secret information” about a Russian tank factory.

“Gershkovich carried out the illegal actions using painstaking conspiratorial methods,” it said in a statement.

Gershkovich’s detention has been a source of tension between Washington and Moscow, whose relations were already deeply strained due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The White House has previously alleged the Kremlin is using Gershkovich, the first American reporter detained in Russia on allegations of spying since the Cold War, as a geopolitical hostage.

On Thursday, the State Department’s Miller said the allegations against Gershkovich have “absolutely zero credibility.”

“We have been clear from the start that Evan has done nothing wrong. He should never have been arrested in the first place. Journalism is not a crime. The charges against him are false, and the Russian government knows that they’re false. He should be released immediately,” Miller said at a State Department briefing.

The US has repeatedly warned American citizens not to travel to Russia.

Additional reporting by CNN’s Stephanie Halasz, Anna Chernova, Natasha Bertrand and Oren Liebermann.

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