The FSB, which is Russia’s Federal Security Service, said Thursday morning that it had arrested a U.S. journalist with the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, on charges of espionage. But what they’ve really done is taken another American hostage.
Breaking: Russia’s main security agency said it had detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen, for what it described as espionage https://t.co/5mr3h7uroZ
— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) March 30, 2023
Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen who works in the paper’s Moscow bureau, is accused of “gathering information about a Russian military enterprise,” according to the Washington Post.
Gershkovich was detained Wednesday according to local media. He was being taken to Moscow for a court hearing and the case was being handled by the FSB’s central office, the Kommersant newspaper reported.
In its statement, the FSB accused Gershkovich of gathering information about a Russian military enterprise but did not cite any evidence. The Wall Street Journal forcefully denied the allegations and demanded his release.
“The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation stopped the illegal activities of the correspondent of the Moscow bureau of the American newspaper The Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, born in 1991, who is suspected of spying for the American government,” the FSB said in the statement. “It was established that Gershkovich, acting at the request of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of an enterprise of the Russian military-industrial complex. The foreign national was detained in Yekaterinburg while attempting to obtain classified information.”
The Wall Street Journal has released a statement about the arrest, disputing the charges and expressing strong concern for its writer.
“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 newspaper said in a statement on Thursday. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
However, it is clear that the Russian government is looking to make an example out of Gershkovich. Russian officials have already endorsed the allegations, the Post’s report continues. That speeds the case along, all but guaranteeing that he will face serious jail time in a Russian prison, despite no one from the FSB to those Russian officials offering any sort of evidence against Gershkovich.
The Kremlin is adamant that he was caught “red-handed,” after all.
It’s another foreign policy nightmare for the Biden administration, and it comes not too long after the last standoff over prisoners when Russia expedited a case against WNBA star Brittany Griner, imprisoning her and holding out for a glorified hostage swap with the United States. In exchange for Griner, we released noted “Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout – all while leaving another American, Paul Whelan, in Russian custody.
But this, as the Post notes, appears to be the first detained journalist since the Cold War, and it comes as tensions between the U.S. and Russia are not only at their highest in a long time but at a time when an armed conflict of some sort has never seemed closer in the post-Cold War era. But the Biden administration has repeatedly demurred where Russia is concerned.
The Russian government has been emboldened to invade Ukraine, take a U.S. basketball player hostage, laugh in the face of U.S. sanctions and threats, purposefully take out U.S. drones, and now take a journalist hostage.
This requires a firmness the Biden administration has thus far been unwilling to show the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin. There is no evidence to suggest that Gershkovich was committing espionage. He is far more likely guilty of doing real journalism, something you don’t find in Russia because the media is controlled by the state.
As much as some would say that America is drifting quickly toward authoritarianism, the fact of the matter is that Russia is authoritarian and we are not anywhere close to where the Russian government is. But Vladimir Putin’s government will imprison a journalist for doing their job, and will gladly do so knowing that the Biden administration will cave to whatever demands Putin makes. That’s not to say there isn’t a price too high for Gershkovich’s life, but his life would not be in danger if Russia had any sort of fear of the U.S. government.
It’s impossible, though, to fear a government run by an administration that is more afraid of hurting the feelings of real tyrants, as well as focusing on issues of social “equity” rather than actual policies that bring real safety and benefit to all Americans. Putin knows he can get away with what he has done here because Biden has let him get away with it before.
We should do everything in our power to get Gershkovich back, but we also shouldn’t be in this position in the first place, and the blame for that can be laid squarely at the feet of Joe Biden.
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