US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia last week, was formally charged with “espionage” on Friday, a charge he “categorically denies”, Russian news agencies reported.
According to Interfax, Mr. Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent who also worked for AFP in the past, is being prosecuted on the basis of article 276 of the Russian penal code, a charge punishable by 20 years in prison. .
Authorities have “charged Gershkovich with spying for his country. He categorically denied all charges and said his activities in Russia were journalistic,” TASS reported, citing an unnamed source within the security forces.
This charge opens the way to a trial whose date has not yet been announced.
The reporter was arrested last week by the Russian security services (FSB) while reporting in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals. Authorities accused him of collecting information on the defense industry, among other things.
The United States and the Wall Street Journal have dismissed the espionage charges and called on the Kremlin to free the journalist 31, who is a US citizen of Russian descent.
His arrest comes amid increased Russian repression against the press since the offensive against Ukraine, which has greatly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
It also follows a December exchange between American basketball star Brittney Griner, who was in custody in Russia, and Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, prisoner in the United States.
Washington has repeatedly accused Moscow of arbitrarily arresting Americans to use as bargaining chips and recover Russians detained in the United States.