Evan Gershkovich, a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal arrested in Russia on espionage charges, is a 31-year-old American who has reported on Russia for various outlets for six years.
At the Journal, he has reported extensively on the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In conversations with friends, he said he saw his role as telling the story of how the war was changing Russia, and that he knew it could be dangerous to do his work in the face of strict censorship laws passed in the first days of the campaign.
“Evan was not unaware or naive about the risks,” tweeted his friend, New Yorker journalist Joshua Yaffa.
“He is a brave, committed, professional journalist who traveled to Russia to report on stories of import and interest.”
A fluent Russian speaker born to Soviet emigres and raised in New Jersey, Gershkovich moved to Moscow in late 2017 to join the English-language Moscow Times, and subsequently worked for the French national news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Russia announced the start of its “special military operation” in February 2022, just as Gershkovich was in London, about to return to Russia to join the Journal’s Moscow bureau.
It was decided that he would live in London but travel to Russia frequently for reporting trips, as a correspondent accredited with the Foreign Ministry.
It was on one such trip, to the industrial town of Yekaterinburg in the Ural mountains, that he was arrested this week by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, successor to the Soviet KGB.
Early in the war, Gershkovich had gone to Belarus, witnessing Russian military ambulances backing up at a hospital 30 miles (50 km) from the Ukrainian border in a report that showed Minsk was supporting Russia’s war and indicated that Russian forces were taking heavy casualties.
He spoke to a Russian soldier to produce a detailed account of what had gone wrong with Russia’s invasion plan, and contributed to an article arguing that an “isolated and distrustful” President Vladimir Putin had built a power structure that fuelled his miscalculations over the campaign.
Gershkovich also reported from Russia’s border regions, examining the attitudes of locals subjected to an intense Kremlin information campaign about a conflict that threatened to spill over into their towns.
Rights groups, activists and colleagues called on Thursday for his immediate release, as a Moscow court said Gershkovich would be held in pre-trial detention until at least May 29.
“Evan Gershkovich is a highly respected, excellent journalist, detained by Russia for doing his job,” the Washington Post’s Moscow bureau chief Robyn Dixon said.
“I know and admire him. It is horrifying to be writing this story. He should be released immediately.”