The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) on Saturday demanded Russia to release Evan Gershkovich, its Moscow-based correspondent who was arrested on suspicion of espionage by Russia's security forces.
"Evan's case is a vicious affront to a free press, and should spur outrage in all free people and governments throughout the world," the newspaper said in a statement on Twitter.
"The timing of the arrest looks like a calculated provocation to embarrass the US and intimidate the foreign press still working in Russia," it added.
In a note sent to staff on Friday, editor-in-chief Emma Tucker said, "we will carry on doing everything in our power to secure Evan's release."
What had happened?
The correspondent was detained in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on March 29 when the WSJ says it lost contact with him.
The next day, a TV report by Russia's state news agency revealed that he had been arrested by Russia's Federal Security Bureau and had been charged with espionage offenses. The charges against the 31-year-old journalist carry a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars
While Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Gershkovich had been caught "red-handed," Gershkovich has denied the charges against him.
His case has been classified as "secret," according to Russian state news agency TASS, which restricts the amount of information on the case that is liable to be made public, possibly even to people like Gershkovich's lawyers.
Biden says expelling Russians in return 'not the plan right now'
US President Joe Biden on Friday simply said "let him go." But state-owned news agency RIA quoted Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying that if the US threatened Russia over Evan Gershkovich's arrest, it would "reap the whirlwind."
The Wall Street Journal's board of opinion editors even called for the expulsion of Russian diplomats and Russian journalists from the United States.
Biden, however, dismissed the newspaper's call to deport Russian journalists from the United States. He said that expelling Russian journalists was "not the plan right now."
Gershkovich is believed to be the first overseas journalist arrested on spying charges in post-Soviet Russia.
mf/msh (Reuters, AFP)