Last Thursday, March 30, Russian authorities arrested the Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershovitch:
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was “acting on instructions from the American side to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.” Gershkovich, who was arrested in the city of Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains region, will be held until at least May 29, according to Russian judicial officials.
The Wall Street Journal said it “vehemently denies” the allegation and demanded that Russia release Gershkovich, who has lived in Moscow for six years and was accredited by Russia’s foreign ministry. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Would the Wall Street Journal even know if the CIA hired one of its journos for a side job?
But fear not, the CIA would never do such:
The arrest shows that Moscow is “increasingly treating the United States as an open belligerent in a war against Russia,” according to George Beebe of the Quincy Institute, who previously led Russia analysis at the CIA.
Citing a 1977 law that banned CIA recruitment of journalists, Beebe argued that it is “very unlikely that Gershkovich is a U.S. intelligence asset or that his reporting was directed or influenced by the U.S. Intelligence Community.”
Surely, the CIA would never ever break a law, says a former CIA analyst …
But why then is the U.S. Secretary of State calling Russia for a talk about the man?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday held a call with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, to discuss Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and US citizen who was detained in Russia last week over spying allegations.
According to a State Department readout of the call, Blinken expressed the US’s “grave concern over Russia’s unacceptable detention of a US citizen journalist” and called for his “immediate release.”
According to the Russian side, Lavrov told Blinken that a Russian court will decide Gershkovich’s fate. “In light of the established evidence of the US national’s illegal activities, his future will be determined by court,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Gershkovich, “acting at the behest of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprise within Russia’s military-industrial complex.”
May be I am naive, but what Gershkovich inquired about was way too much on the questionable side than to be called journalism:
Kevin Rothrock @KevinRothrock – 17:15 UTC · Mar 30, 2023
Journalist @kolezev, who spoke on background to @evangershkovich before his trip to Yekaterinburg, says Evan hoped to intercept employees (literally in the street) leaving the UralVagonZavod plant in Nizhny Tagil or the NPO Novator missile factory in Yekaterinburg, planning to ask them how they feel about the invasion of Ukraine.
This more than the WSJ’s Wagner Group investigation seems likeliest to have triggered the FSB’s “espionage” paranoia. Evan knew the risks but apparently hoped that the FSB would let him be, given that war sentiment isn’t a state secret.
Мария Захарова заявила, что «то, чем занимался в Екатеринбурге сотрудник американского издания The Wall Street Journal, не имеет отношения к журналистике». Марии Захаровой, конечно, виднее, ей в ФСБ…
Tass summarizes the accusations:
- US citizen Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Moscow bureau of The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), was detained in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Region, in the Urals region of Russia, on suspicion of espionage.
- According to the FSB, the journalist was collecting top-secret data about an enterprise within the Russian military-industrial complex in the interests of the United States.
- The American was detained while trying to obtain classified data.
Yekaterinburg has been a the metallurgical center of Russia for 300 years:
Yekaterinburg was founded on 18 November 1723 and named after Yekaterina I, the wife of Russian emperor Peter the Great. The city served as the mining capital of the Russian Empire as well as a strategic connection between Europe and Asia.
The city grew during the second world war when Russia moved its heavy industry away from the frontline to behind the Ural. UralVagonZavod is the largest tank manufacturer in the world. It is currently producing the T-90 tanks for the Russian army. NPO Novator is making anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons like the Kalibr cruise missiles which are currently in high demand.
To ask workers of such factories how they feel about the U.S. proxy war waged against Russia while that war is ongoing seems a bit off to me.
What would have been the offer by Gershkovich to any worker who would have spoken against the war?
Also, this was about more than just asking random workers:
The Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was interested in operation of military-industrial complex facilities in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Region Legislative Assembly deputy Vycheslav Vegner, whom the reporter interviewed earlier, told TASS Thursday.
“[During the interview, Gershkovich] started asking questions regarding the military-industrial complex of Yekaterinburg, he named one such enterprise – ‘Novator’- and so on,” Vegner said.
According to the lawmaker, the reported cited the experience of other regions on industry conversion and asked about the Sverdlovsk Region experience – for example, whether the enterprises change their profile, how many shifts there are, and if they are appropriately staffed. Vegner noted during the interview that he is not authorized to answer such question.
Anything about weapon production numbers or related issues are of course state secrets, at least during times of war. What then do we call such inquiries if not espionage?
Gershkovich also inquired about the lawmaker’s communication with Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin – to which Vegner answered that he is familiar with this issue, because he received applications from convicts who desire to volunteer.
The Wagner founder seems to have been of special interest:
In an interview with Kommersant, Yaroslav Shirshikov, a local public activist, said he spent two days with Gershkovich in Yekaterinburg. The main objective of Gershkovich’s mission “was to analyze society’s attitude toward Prigozhin. He wanted to find out whether public support for the special military operation was growing or dwindling,” Shirshikov said.
The questions Gershkovich asked surely deserved some scrutiny from the Russian authorities. One wonders what else they found with him.
But don’t look what Gershkovich has done, say some. Obfuscate it whenever possible.
Jason Rezaian @jrezaian – 3:17 UTC · Apr 2, 2023
When reporting on Evan’s ordeal, avoid repeating the Russian narrative. The fact that he is a hostage is the story, not the supposed charges against him. Constantly humanize Evan.
Drop all our notions of competition and steel ourselves for a potentially long ordeal. #FreeEvan
Nicholas Kristof @NickKristof – Apr 2
Replying to @jrezaian @MtthwRose and @WSJ
Jason, you’ve been in Evan’s situation. What would you suggest that the journalistic community do to support him?
Jason Rezaian indeed has experience with the situation. He had been imprisoned in Iran for espionage when he worked there as ‘journalist’.
Not that the CIA would ever hire such …
On Sunday, April 2, the Russian war blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, real name Maxim Fomin, was killed in a terrorist attack in St Petersburg.
Russian authorities arrested the woman that had brought the bomb which killed Tatarsky. While the man was more of a warrior or grifter than a journalist the Russian public is likely to connect the cases. It will demand harsh punishment for Gershkovich. The Ukrainian secret service, which likely was involved in the assassination, may well have intended such.
Craig Murray – @CraigMurrayOrg – 18:04 UTC · Apr 2, 2023
My first thought is that terrorism killing a Russian journalist is really going to make things worse for Evan Gershkovich.
Then I realised that it is in Ukraine’s interest for US/Russian relations to deteriorate further over Evan Gershkovich.
Russian pro-war military blogger killed in blast at St Petersburg cafe
Vladlen Tatarsky, who had over 560,000 followers on Telegram, dies in explosion that injures 19 people
But is this really in Ukrainian interest?
Gonzalo Lira – @GonzaloLira1968 – 19:41 UTC · Apr 2, 2023
Terrorist attacks like this one do nothing — except harden the Russian public’s resolve to smash the Kiev regime and take all of Ukraine.
It ensures that Russian public sentiment will never support a cease-fire or negotiated settlement.
In other words, this hurts Ukraine
Intermarium 24 @intermarium24 · Apr 2
💥 An explosion occurred in St. Petersburg, Russia during a meeting organized by Pro-Russian military blogger – Vladen Tatarsky. The cafe was owned by PMC Wagner chief Evgeniy Prigozhin. Unknown woman gifted Tatarsky a small statue with explosive device. 1 killed, 6 injured.… Show more
The unknown woman who ‘gifted’ the statue was Darya Trepova:
Russia media reports say Ms Trepova, 26, handed Tatarsky a statuette which was believed to contain the explosives that killed him and injured more than 30 people. Later in a video released by the Russian Interior Ministry, she is seen admitting she brought the statuette to the cafe where the blast took place.
Her husband Dmitry Rylov suggests she may have been duped.
Whatever happened, going forward Darya Trepova will not have an easy life.
Victor vicktop55 @vicktop55 – 13:37 UTC · Apr 4, 2023
Evgeny Prigozhin gave an exclusive interview to SHOT.
“Vladlen Tatarsky is a sacred symbol of Russia’s struggle against external evil.
This attack was staged to remove the “voice of Russia” in order to weaken our struggle. But there will only be more resistance.
For people like Trepova, the death penalty should be brought back. Put her against the wall and drill a hole in the head. She is an enemy. Her employers are enemies. The fight against enemies must be absolutely merciless.
Now there are more attacks on journalists than on government officials. Because journalists are active people. They are the voice of the public. We need such active people to defend Russia in their field.
Unite is the first thing to do to fight the recruits. Society must reject any attempt to side with the enemy.”
The cafe where the explosion occurred belongs to Yevgeny Prigozhin. He will hand it over to the Cyber Front office. It will be renovated and everything will be furnished as it was on the day of Tatarsky’s death.
“Cyber Front – these are the people who defend Russia’s interests in the information space. Cyber Front will work even more actively. Nobody is afraid.”
Prigozhin will provide material assistance to the victims of the terrorist attack from personal funds.
“Our task is to ensure that the patriotic movements that exist in our society continue to grow.”
Dima of the Military Summary channels suggested that the terror attack that killed Tatarsky was a planned diversion. It is supposed to move the public eyes away from the fact that the Ukrainian army is currently getting removed from Bakhmut. The fight there had been lost months ago but the Ukrainian army is only now giving up. Ten thousands of Ukrainian soldiers died there in vain.
One hopes that one day the people of Ukraine will hold those responsible who had needlessly sent those soldiers into such fate.