Fri. Apr 19th, 2024
alert-–-american-journalist-evan-gershkovich-hits-grim-one-year-milestone-in-russian-jail-–-as-his-paper-wall-street-journal-runs-powerful-blank-front-page-to-mark-anniversaryAlert – American journalist Evan Gershkovich hits grim one year milestone in Russian jail – as his paper Wall Street Journal runs powerful BLANK front page to mark anniversary

American journalist Evan Gershkovich has hit the one-year anniversary of his detention in Russian jail – as people across the globe have rallied together against his wrongful arrest.

The Wall Street Journal reporter, 32, was taken into custody on March 29, 2023, while on a reporting trip in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg, intending to cover the mercenary ‘Wagner’ militia. 

The FSB, Russia’s counterintelligence force, accused Gershkovich of collecting state defense secrets on his trip. While Russian officials said he was caught ‘red handed’, no evidence has ever been released. 

As the first American journalist accused of espionage since the Cold War, experts have blamed geopolitics and Putin’s ruthless approach as the reason for his ongoing detention, despite vehement denials from Gershkovich and the White House. 

Evan Gershkovich, 32, was arrested on a reporting trip one year ago on Friday. He has been hauled into Russian court a dozen times since, pictured at the Moscow City Court on December 14, 2023

Evan Gershkovich, 32, was arrested on a reporting trip one year ago on Friday. He has been hauled into Russian court a dozen times since, pictured at the Moscow City Court on December 14, 2023 

The Wall Street Journal reporter has been classified as 'wrongfully detained' by the White House since his arrest, and he spends 23 hours a day in his cell

The Wall Street Journal reporter has been classified as ‘wrongfully detained’ by the White House since his arrest, and he spends 23 hours a day in his cell 

To mark the one-year anniversary of his arrest, the Wall Street Journal published a powerful blank page with the headline: 'His Story Should Be Here'

To mark the one-year anniversary of his arrest, the Wall Street Journal published a powerful blank page with the headline: ‘His Story Should Be Here’ 

The Wall Street Journal was praised for its powerful Friday morning newspaper front page, which featured a blank space with the headline: ‘His Story Should Be Here.’ 

‘A year in Russian Prison. A year of stolen stories, stolen joys, stolen memories. The crime: journalism,’ the sub-headline read. 

In his year behind bars, Gershkovich has been hauled before Russian pre-trial court a dozen times, each time seeing his appeals expectantly rejected and his detention extended. 

At each visit, the 32-year-old’s friends and family are given a glimpse of him via court cameras – where he is often seen defiantly smiling. 

Gershkovich’s mother, Ella Milman, a Jewish immigrant who settled in the US from the Soviet Union in 1979, told the Associated Press that seeing her son locked up in such a way is ‘always a mixed feeling.’

‘I’m happy to see him and that he’s doing well, but it’s a reminder that he is not with us. We want him at home,’ she said. In an interview on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary, Milman said his situation is ‘still as painful as ever.’ 

His most recent appearance came on Tuesday, where a judge ordered he remain behind yet again, this time until at least June 30. 

The extensions are only until he eventually stands trial, where he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage.  

Gershkovich is often seen wryly smiling in his numerous pre-trial court appearances, where his detention is routinely set back. His family say the occasional glimpses of him are 'always a mixed feeling'

Gershkovich is often seen wryly smiling in his numerous pre-trial court appearances, where his detention is routinely set back. His family say the occasional glimpses of him are ‘always a mixed feeling’ 

Evan's parents Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich (pictured together) are both Jewish immigrants who fled the Soviet Union to America in 1979, before they met each other in Brooklyn

Evan’s parents Ella Milman and Mikhail Gershkovich (pictured together) are both Jewish immigrants who fled the Soviet Union to America in 1979, before they met each other in Brooklyn 

Tributes and messages of support for Gershkovich have poured in over the past year. President Biden is pictured paying his respects at the White House Correspondents Dinner a month after his arrest in April 2023

Tributes and messages of support for Gershkovich have poured in over the past year. President Biden is pictured paying his respects at the White House Correspondents Dinner a month after his arrest in April 2023 

Gershkovich has been held at the Lefortovsky Prison for a year, where he is confined to his cell and entertains himself only with mail from family and friends, occasional Arsenal replays on TV, and Russian history books from the prison library

Gershkovich has been held at the Lefortovsky Prison for a year, where he is confined to his cell and entertains himself only with mail from family and friends, occasional Arsenal replays on TV, and Russian history books from the prison library 

An expert in Russian culture and history, Gershkovich had moved to Russia in 2017 to work for The Moscow Times newspaper, before he joined the Wall Street Journal in 2022. 

Milman said he ‘absolutely loved’ living in Russia, and by all appearances was as safe as he could be in the hostile nation as an accredited journalist with the Russian Foreign Ministry. 

His arrest the following year came as a shock, and sparked confusion as the Journal was forced to hire a lawyer to locate him through the FSB. 

His friend and colleague Eliot Brown, in a one-year tribute piece on Friday, wrote how Gershkovich’s year since has been spent almost entirely in miserable conditions locked up in his cell 23 hours every day. 

He has a weekly meeting with his Russian lawyers, while one of his only forms of entertainment comes from letters from friends and family – including playing drawn out games of chess with his dad via mail. 

Russian history books and tomes by Dostoyevsky fill his days, and he occasionally catches replays of Arsenal, his favorite football team, on a small TV by his bed. 

He told the Journal in a recent message that catching the Premier League team gives him ‘the same highs and lows as if I got to watch the game live.’

‘Spring came to Moscow and the lads gifted me the happiest Wednesday morning—another chance to get a small glimpse of them even from here,’ he added. 

Before his arrest, Brown wrote of how Gershkovich had only recently moved one block away from him in London, and had vowed to enjoy a ‘year of sports’ by going to Arsenal games and joining a local club. 

Russian officials have never released any evidence to support their claims Gershkovich was guilty of espionage, and his detention has been seen by experts as a power play by Putin to use him as a pawn in geopolitical games

Russian officials have never released any evidence to support their claims Gershkovich was guilty of espionage, and his detention has been seen by experts as a power play by Putin to use him as a pawn in geopolitical games 

The journalist's appearances in Russian court always bring about a throng of cameras, as he is pictured standing defiantly in one appearance on September 19, 2023

The journalist’s appearances in Russian court always bring about a throng of cameras, as he is pictured standing defiantly in one appearance on September 19, 2023 

Gershkovich left Moscow for London shortly before the start of the Ukraine war, and his sudden detention has since been conclusively seen as a power play by Putin to use the reporter as a pawn in his conflict and geopolitical games. 

‘It’s a way for the Kremlin to intimidate the western journalists still reporting in Russia,’ Jeanne Cavelier, the head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Desk for Reporters Without Borders, told Time. 

‘If western journalists can’t report on Russia any more, without being arrested without being suspected and accused of espionage, the country may become a black hole of information.’ 

His ongoing detention was even raised by former Fox News firebrand Tucker Carlson in his interview with Putin last month, where the Russian leader balked at the suggestion of letting him free and said America would have to show ‘good will’ – indicating he was seeking a prisoner swap. 

On the one-year anniversary on Friday, President Joe Biden said the U.S. is working every day to secure his release.

Journalism is not a crime, and Evan went to Russia to do his job as a reporter – risking his safety to shine the light of truth on Russia´s brutal aggression against Ukraine,’ Biden said in a statement. 

While he has sadly missed a number of birthdays and weddings – with one friend seating a picture of Evan next to his groomsmen at a recent wedding – those that know him said that may not bother him as much as his inability to cover Russian madness over the past year. 

‘Yes, Evan is missing birthdays and New Years and parties and all the trips we had planned together,’ his friend and Financial Times reporter Polina Ivanova told the Journal.

‘But he’s also missing out on covering an insane story… I know how much of a tragedy that is for him.’ 

Facing decades behind bars if convicted in an unfair Russian judicial system, his supporters have not lost hope. 

His friend and former college roommate Jeremy Berke said when he officiates a wedding for another friend in June, they still have dreams he could be there. 

‘We have an invitation with his name on it,’ he said. ‘We’re still hopeful he’ll be there.’