Russia arrests Wall Street Journal reporter on spying charge
Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is escorted by officers from the Lefortovsky court to a bus, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 30, 2023. Russia’s top security agency says an American reporter for the Wall Street Journal has been arrested on espionage charges. The Federal Security Service said Thursday that Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg while allegedly trying to obtain classified information. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Moscow (AP) – Russia’s security service arrested an American reporter for The Wall Street Journal on espionage charges, the first time a U.S. correspondent has been detained on spying accusations since the Cold War. The newspaper denied the allegations.
Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg while allegedly trying to obtain classified information, the Federal Security Service, known by the acronym FSB, said Thursday.
The service, which is the top domestic security agency and main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, alleged that Gershkovich “was acting on the U.S. orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday: “It is not about a suspicion, is it about the fact that he was caught red-handed.”
“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. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”
The arrest comes at a moment of bitter tensions between the West and Moscow over its war in Ukraine and as the Kremlin intensifies a crackdown on opposition activists, independent journalists and civil society groups. The sweeping campaign of repression is unprecedented since the Soviet era.
Earlier this week, a Russian court convicted a father over social media posts critical of the war and sentenced him to two years in prison while his 13-year-old daughter was sent to an orphanage.
Gershkovich is the first American reporter to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since September 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a Moscow correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested by the KGB. Daniloff was released without charge 20 days later in a swap for an employee of the Soviet Union’s United Nations mission who was arrested by the FBI, also on spying charges.
At a hearing Thursday, a Moscow court quickly ruled to keep Gershkovich behind bars pending the investigation, according to the official Telegram channel of the capital’s courts.
While previous American detainees have been freed in prisoner swaps, a top Russian official said it was way too early to talk about any such deal.
There was no immediate public comment from Washington, although a U.S. official indicated the U.S. government was aware of the situation and awaiting more information from Russia.
Gershkovich, who covers Russia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet nations as a correspondent in The Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau, could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of espionage. Prominent lawyers noted that past investigations into espionage cases in the past took a year to 18 months during which time he may be held with little contact with the outside world.
The FSB noted that Gershkovich had accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist, but ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Gershkovich was using his journalistic credentials as a cover for “activities that have nothing to do with journalism.”
Gershkovich speaks fluent Russian and had previously worked for the French agency Agence France-Presse and The New York Times. His last report from Moscow, published earlier this week, focused on the Russian economy’s slowdown amid Western sanctions imposed when Russian troops invaded Ukraine last year.
Ivan Pavlov, a prominent Russian defense attorney who has worked on many espionage and treason cases, said Gershkovich is the first criminal case on espionage charges against a foreign journalist in post-Soviet Russia.
“That unwritten rule not to touch accredited foreign journalists, has stopped working,” said Pavlov, a member of the First Department legal aid group.
Pavlov said the case against Gershkovich was built in order for Russia to have “trump cards” for a future prisoner exchange and will likely be resolved “not by the means of the law, but by political, diplomatic means.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov ruled out any quick swap.
“I wouldn’t even consider this issue now because people who were previously swapped had already served their sentences,” Ryabkov said, according to Russian news agencies.
Ryabkov added that the U.S. citizens swapped in the past were behind bars on “quite serious charges” while the Russians in the American custody had found themselves in “the millstones of the American system of persecution.”
Gershkovich’s arrest follows a swap in December, in which WNBA star Brittney Griner was freed after 10 months behind bars in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Another American, Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in Russia since December 2018 on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government have said are baseless.
Jeanne Cavelier, of press freedom group Reporters Without Borders, said Gershkovich’s arrest “looks like a retaliation measure of Russia against the United States.”
“We are very alarmed because it is probably a way to intimidate all Western journalists that are trying to investigate aspects of the war on the ground in Russia,” said Cavelier, head of Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk at the Paris-based group. “The Western powers should immediately ask for clarifications on the charges, because as far as we know he was just doing his job as a journalist.”
Russian journalist Dmitry Kolezev said on the messaging app Telegram that he spoke to Gershkovich before his trip to Yekaterinburg.
“He was preparing for the usual, albeit rather dangerous in current conditions, journalist work,” Kolezev wrote. He said Gershkovich asked him for the contacts of local journalists and officials in the area as he prepared to arrange interviews.
Another prominent lawyer with the First Department group, Yevgeny Smirnov, said that those arrested on espionage and treason charges are usually held at the FSB’s Lefortovo prison in Moscow, known for its stringent conditions. It was Moscow’s Lefortovo District Court that ruled behind closed doors to keep Gershkovich in custody.
Smirnov said espionage suspects are usually held in a total isolation, without phone calls, visitors or even access to newspapers. At most, they can receive letters, often delayed by weeks. Smirnov called these conditions “tools of suppression.”
Smirnov and Pavlov both said that the investigation could last for 12 to 18 months, and the trial would be held behind closed doors.
According to Pavlov, there have been no acquittals in treason and espionage cases in Russia since 1999.
Most recently, Smirnov and Pavlov defended Ivan Safronov, a former Russian journalist turned an official with the federal space corporation Roscosmos who was convicted of treason.
Sudan armed raids, bureaucracy hampering life-saving aid, doctor says
A Sudanese evacuee waits at Port Sudan before boarding a Saudi military ship to Jeddah port, on May 3, 2023. A doctor trying to co-ordinate basic medical services after Sudan’s rapid descent into chaos says the government and militias are hampering lifesaving aid and leaving children dying, as Canada crafts its response to the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Amr Nabil
By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa
As Canada crafts its response to the crisis in Sudan, a doctor trying to co-ordinate basic medical services after the country’s rapid descent into chaos says bandits and bureaucracy are hampering life-saving aid and leaving children to die.
“The people of Sudan are not getting as much care as they could, because our warehouses are being looted and we don’t have safe access to them,” said Javid Abdelmoneim, a Doctors Without Borders emergency-room physician.
In a recent call from Sudan’s Gedaref state, near the border with Ethiopia, Abdelmoneim said the crisis is unlike ones he’s seen in Syria, Ukraine or Ethiopia, not just because of random violence, but also because of bureaucratic hurdles.
In mid-April, a longstanding feud between the country’s military and its paramilitary force broke out into a turf war in the capital of Khartoum and led to violence across the country of 46 million people.
That caused Canada and other western countries to evacuate their citizens, who Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said last month “went through hell.”
The conflict has also sparked fears of a massive refugee crisis, with the United Nations migration agency saying last week that 1.3 million people had been displaced.
In Khartoum, a handful of hospitals are running with a skeleton crew of volunteers and staff who put themselves in the line of danger, with sporadic access to fuel, electricity, clean water and basic medical supplies.
It’s even worse outside the capital. At the Gedaref Teaching Hospital, “a number of children died for want of blood in the last week, because blood bags are not available,” Abdelmoneim said.
Across the country, cell service is frequently interrupted as armed groups disable telecommunication networks. An interview with Abdelmoneim was abruptly cut off when he lost internet connectivity for five hours.
“There’s trauma from increased lawlessness and looting. So, you have injured civilians presenting to hospitals late, because they can’t get there if it’s unsafe to move across the city.”
Abdelmoneim said the calamity in Khartoum has led to people fleeing north, where he saw rural hospitals crowded with wounded people from the city of 12 million people, which is no longer sending rural hospitals their basic supplies.
At the coastal city of Port Sudan, where Canadians and others from rich countries have been flown or shipped out to safety, Abdelmoneim saw less-fortunate foreigners languishing.
He said Nigerians, Yemenis and especially Syrians are staying in the homes of strangers, in government buildings or simply camping in the open air.
And his colleagues elsewhere are seeing tens of thousands of Sudanese displaced in the Darfur region and crossing into Chad.
Last week, International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Chad to better understand the flow of refugees and how Ottawa can help support efforts by that country’s government and Canadian groups.
Sajjan has said Canada will be unveiling more aid based on refugee flows and requests from those on the ground.
Yet in Sudan, Abdelmoneim said he’s been able to help Sudanese people far less than he’d expected because of the country’s bureaucracy.
Doctors Without Borders staff who have been stationed inside Sudan for years require bureaucratic approval from the government to cross lines between states within the country, or even to move equipment between states.
Abdelmoneim is a British citizen with Sudanese roots, making him one of the few aid workers who could visit the country without facing a the weeks-long wait for a visa that his colleagues abroad are facing.
He said Sudan seems to have made no effort to streamline any of these processes in the weeks since clashes started. The Canadian Press has sought comment from the Sudanese embassy in Ottawa.
For weeks, the United Nations’s highest officials have urged both warring factions to allow humanitarian groups to access people in need, a plea Abdelmoneim said is being ignored by multiple armed groups.
In mid-May, bandits looted one of his organization’s warehouses, where 140 tonnes of medical and logistical supplies had been allocated for hospitals, clinics and a network of obstetricians and gynecologists.
Already, it was a struggle to move out equipment from the warehouse in the Gabra area, which has become the scene of “overt warfare,” Abdelmoneim said.
Still, he said it’s crushing for him to know his team braved danger without access to a vehicle to prepare 200 rape kits for pick-up, only to have armed men seize them along with other medical equipment.
“We were getting supplies out in a trickle, but then the looting started,” he said.
“You have men with weapons, be they civilian or in uniform, aggressively and violently entering a warehouse space full of medical stock, rendering it completely inaccessible and unusable.”
Armed men ransacked another warehouse in the city of Nyala, but Doctors Without Borders staff managed to hand over some remaining equipment to health officials.
Abdelmoneim says other non-governmental organizations are seeing their offices, warehouses and clinics raided, making it harder for them to help people in desperate need. MSF has gone public with the issue out of a conviction that the world needs to know about violations of the rules of war, even if raising the issue makes donors less likely to donate.
“Even war has rules. Every government needs to pressure warring parties in conflict to respect those rules,” he said.
“The government of Canada has a responsibility to uphold international humanitarian law.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 1, 2023.
Europe OKs plan to tally cost of Moscow’s war in Ukraine with eye toward future reparations
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz speaks during a media conference at the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Wednesday, May 17, 2023. Leaders from across Europe were wrapping a two-day summit on Wednesday, putting the final touches on a system to establish the damage Russia is causing during the war in Ukraine, in the hopes it can be forced to compensate victims and help rebuild the nation once the conflict is over. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
By Molly Quell in Reykjavik
REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — More than 40 nations agreed Wednesday to set up a system to tally the damage Russia has inflicted on Ukraine in the hope of getting reparations, adding to the international legal challenges the Kremlin is facing.
The register of damages, which will allow Ukrainian victims of war to catalog the harm they have suffered, found a plethora of support among the 46-nation Council of Europe summit in Iceland. Participants also discussed the details of a potential future tribunal where Russia would face charges for waging war.
“This Reykjavik summit shows clearly that Putin has failed with his calculations – he wanted to divide Europe and has achieved the opposite,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “We stand closer together in Europe than ever before.”
While leaders were at the waterside venue on the far-flung island nation for two days, the United Nations’ top court announced it would hold hearings next month in a case between Russia and Ukraine. Kyiv claims Moscow is discriminating against minority groups in occupied Crimea and is financing terrorism in the region.
But even if Ukraine prevails at The Hague-based International Court of Justice, a ruling wouldn’t make whole the millions of Ukrainians whose homes and lives have been torn apart by the conflict.
In theory, victims might have better luck at the Council of Europe’s own court, the European Court of Human Rights, where Moscow is facing thousands of complaints of human rights violations, including three brought by Ukraine. The Strasbourg-based court can order countries to pony up restitution, but Russia’s neighbor Georgia has been yet unable to collect for damages inflicted by Moscow when it invaded in 2008.
However, Russia was expelled from the council last year, in the wake of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. And as long ago as 2015, it passed a law allowing it to overrule judgements from the ECHR.
Neither the court, nor the council, now has any channel of communication with the Russian authorities.
The damages register is seen as a first step toward justice in Ukraine. “Accountability is one of the topics that is of crucial importance,” Marija Pejcinovic Buric, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, told the AP in an interview.
Compiling a comprehensive register of the destruction may be a first step: it’s unclear what else might follow. The Council of Europe has made it clear that it will not assess the credibility of any claims, nor will it fund reparations payments. Those decisions will be left for other potential future institutions to determine.
Little wonder that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressing the summit from Kyiv, reiterated his country’s wish for such a court specifically for the prosecution of Russian aggression. In addition to military aid, another conference topic, he said his country needed “100% of justice, as there will be no reliable peace without justice.”
While international institutions may be bogged down in overcoming legal hurdles to accountability, a group of squatters in Amsterdam has cut through the red tape – and the locks of the $3.5 million Amsterdam home belonging to one of Russia’s sanctioned oligarchs.
A court in the Dutch city ruled on Wednesday that an anarchist group, who took over the Russian tech billionaire Arkady Volozh’s house in October, could remain in the five-story, 19th-century mansion so long as they didn’t annoy the neighbors.
20 year old Red Deer man faces child pornography charges
‘Tragic accident’ blamed for recent death of giraffe at Calgary Zoo
United Conservatives jump out to early lead in tight Alberta election
Police looking for these 3 suspects after Super 8 Motel in Innisfail robbed early Monday morning
Agriculture2 days ago
Canada saw decline in fresh fruit, vegetable availability in 2022: StatCan
Health2 days ago
Health Foundation commits $325,000 to support child, adolescent mental health
Disaster2 days ago
One adult, 16 children injured in fall during school trip to Winnipeg historic site
Business1 day ago
Peavey Industries LP, the Red Deer-based retailer, has announced the acquisition of long-term partner and fellow Red Deer stalwart, Guy’s Freightways.
armed conflict2 days ago
Court of Appeal overturns ruling directing Ottawa to help repatriate men in Syria
International2 days ago
David Johnston plans to keep role, as House of Commons votes for him to step aside
National1 day ago
Fifth day of fighting major wildfires in Nova Scotia could prove pivotal
National1 day ago
Firefighters from U.S., South Africa to battle Canada’s ‘unprecedented’ fires