On the afternoon of March 29, 2023, Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was detained by Russia’s internal security service, the FSB (the successor to the infamous KGB), while on a reporting trip in Yekaterinburg, a city in central Russia. He was later charged with espionage. These are accusations that both the Wall Street Journal and the United States “vehemently deny”. At the time of his detention, Evan was accredited to work as a journalist inside Russia by the Russian Foreign Ministry. Following his detention, the US government has declared him “wrongfully detained”, a status which allows the entire US government apparatus to devote its resources to securing his release.
Evan, aged 31, is the son of Jews who emigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1970s. His sister and parents now reside in Philadelphia and Princeton. According to WSJ reports, Evan was raised to love the country his parents had fled, watching Russian cartoons, playing with his sister while speaking Russian, and other things. In a letter to his family, written in Russian, that was published in the Wall Street Journal, Evan reassured them that he is doing alright, saying “I read. I exercise. And I am trying to write,” and also that he is “not losing hope”. He even quipped that his mother’s cooking had “unfortunately, for better or worse, prepared me well for jail food.”
Evan is a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal who covers Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. Prior to working at the Journal, he also wrote for the New York Times, The Moscow Times, an independent English language paper that has been banned in Russia since 2017, and Agence France-Presse. The Journal hired him in January of 2022.
A month later, Russia invaded Ukraine, and, according to the Journal, while covering the Belarus-Ukraine border, Evan was the first American reporter to witness wounded Russian soldiers returning home. Ever since the invasion, freedom of expression and speech has been drastically reduced in Russia. Even calling Russia's actions in Ukraine a war, as opposed to the Kremlin’s preferred term “special military operation”, can land one in prison for up to 15 years. Since February 2022, nearly all independent news outlets in Russia have been shuddered, with many reporters being imprisoned. Indeed, Evan tweeted that “Reporting on Russia is now also a regular practice of watching people you know get locked away for years”. His detention comes at a time when journalists are facing unprecedented threats to their security around the world with 363 journalists detained in over 30 countries, according to the committee to protect journalists.
Jewish communities and organizations have also been vocal in advocating for Evan’s release. In a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is Jewish, the Jewish Federations of North America, which represents hundreds of local Jewish federations throughout the US and Canada, has called for increased effort toward securing Evan’s release, stating “For us, this is personal. Evan and his family are members of our American Jewish community.” Some households even left an empty place setting for Evan at their seder tables.
To find out more about Evan, stay updated with developments, and how you can help, or to send a note to his family, please go to https://www.wsj.com/news/evan-gershkovich, and use the hashtag #IStandWithEvan. In addition to this, all of Evan’s reporting for the Wall Street Journal has been made available for free, meaning you do not need to have a subscription to the paper to access it.