Putin claims jailed US journalist Evan Gershkovich was caught ‘red-handed’ receiving secrets

By Isaac M February 9, 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that jailed American journalist Evan Gershkovich was innocent of the espionage charges for which he remains imprisoned during a rare interview with right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson.

In the conversation, which was released in full on Thursday, Mr Putin insisted that Mr Gershkovich had obtained classified information from one of his sources in a clandestine manner, and had been caught “red-handed” upon receiving the information. The Wall Street Journal and US news outlets have strongly denied any wrongdoing by Mr Gershkovich and protested that his activities fell strictly under the umbrella of legitimate journalism.

“He was receiving classified confidential information, and he was doing it covertly,” the Russian president told Carlson.

Mr Putin added: “He was caught red handed when he was receiving this information.”

The Russian leader also charged that Mr Gershkovich was “working for the US special services” and was “essentially controlled by the US authorities”, an accusation that is likely to be strenuously denied by the Journal as it would compromise the integrity of any journalist to be surreptitiously working for the US government.

Mr Gershkovich has remained imprisoned in Russia for nearly one year; his trial has not yet taken place. Mr Putin’s words, however, suggest that the outcome of the reporter’s court proceedings may already be decided.

(AP)

The US government has maintained that Mr Gershkovich was not working as a spy and considers him wrongfully detained on politicised charges.

“Evan is a journalist, and journalism is not a crime. Any portrayal to the contrary is total fiction. Evan was unjustly arrested and has been wrongfully detained by Russia for nearly a year for doing his job, and we continue to demand his immediate release,” said a spokesperson for the Journal when contacted for comment by The Independent.

They added: “We’re encouraged to see Russia’s desire for a deal that brings Evan home, and we hope this will lead to his rapid release and return to his family and our newsroom.”

Mr Gershkovich’s imprisonment notably comes after another American, Brittany Griner, was held in detention for significant lengths of time over a drug possession charge and would later be freed only after the Biden administration reached an agreement for her homecoming in exchange for the release of a Russian arms dealer from US custody.

Putin repeats de-Nazification claim, meanders around Carlson questions

The two prosecutions of Mr Gershkovich and Ms Griner are considered by many in the US as part of a growing trend in which authoritarian countries imprison Americans and other westerners on trumped-up charges to extract concessions from their respective governments.

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