A Russian judge has extended the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, despite demands from his employer, American lawmakers and press freedom groups for his release.
On Thursday, Gershkovich made his second court appearance since being jailed on espionage charges in Russia, standing in a transparent box while a local judge weighed a motion for his release pending trial.
Gershkovich, 31, was arrested by security officials while eating at a restaurant in late March. He made an initial court appearance in May, where a judge ordered his detention until at least August 30.
His legal team appealed the order, and the hearing on Thursday concerned that appeal.
At the hearing, a federal judge upheld his earlier ruling at the request of the Federal Security Services (FSB), Russia’s foreign intelligence agency that operates similarly to the U.S.-based Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be arrested and jailed in Russia since the end of the Cold War. The Wall Street Journal said he was credentialed by the Russian government to work in the country as a reporter.
He was covering multiple assignments in the region, including the ongoing military conflict with Ukraine, which Russia provoked. His work came amid warning calls from the U.S. State Department urging Americans not to travel or stay in Russia during the military offense. The State Department designed Gershkovich as a “wrongfully detained” citizen in April.
The legal team representing Gershkovich has made multiple requests to the Russian court asking for the reporter to be released on home detention while he awaits trial.
The Russian government has not provided any evidence to the public that proves Gershkovich worked as a spy, and American officials have called the charges against him “baseless.”
“He is an innocent journalist who was carrying out journalistic activities and has been wrongfully detained,” Lynne Tracy, the American ambassador to Russia, told the Wall Street Journal outside the courthouse on Thursday. She characterized the matter as “hostage diplomacy,” and called for his release and that of another American citizen, Paul Whelan.
“We call for that release to occur immediately,” she said.
John Kirby, the spokesperson for the National Security Council at the White House, said the judge’s ruling was “outrageous,” but not surprising.
“We fully expected that the Russians would react this way, and try to keep him in custody,” Kirby said in an interview aired on CNN.