Russia‘s security agency said Thursday it had arrested a Wall Street Journal reporter on allegations of espionage, charges the newspaper denied.
The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said it detained reporter Evan Gershkovich in the city of Yekaterinburg.
Authorities said Mr. Gershkovich was trying to gain information about the Russian military-industrial complex that amounts to a state secret. The reporter was “acting on the instructions of the American side,” according to the FSB.
The Journal denied the allegations in a statement about Mr. Gershkovich, who works out of the Moscow bureau.
“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” The Journal said. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
The arrest ratchets up the tension between Washington and Moscow amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is bristling over strict sanctions in response to its invasion and the U.S. government’s military aid to Kyiv.
Experts say Russia‘s judicial system does not allow for fair trials and has an unusually high conviction rate.
Russia freed another U.S. detainee, basketball star Brittney Griner, after tough negotiations over a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Ms. Griner had been arrested and convicted on charges related to cannabis-derived oil in her airport luggage.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Mr. Putin “plays all these little games of bluffing and brinkmanship.”
“This is another one, but to have an innocent journalist be held hostage for that is really despicable and I’m urging the administration to do everything it can to get him free,” Mr. Schumer, New York Democrat, said.
Rep. Adam B. Schiff, California Democrat and a former member of the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN it is a sign Moscow will resort to “essentially hostage-taking” to try and deter the West from opposing its ambitions in Ukraine.
“This is very typical Russian behavior,” Mr. Schiff said. “In this case, I think we can see it in concert with their nuclear announcements.”
Russia stopped sharing information about its nuclear forces with the U.S., and Mr. Putin recently announced plans to position tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus.
Mr. Schiff said the arrest of an American journalist is a dangerous step in U.S.-Russian relations but he doesn’t think Mr. Putin intends to use nuclear weapons. Rather, the congressman said Mr. Putin wants to wield the “threat” to use nukes against the West.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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