Today, Thursday, the White House called on all American citizens to leave Russia immediately and not to travel to it, as the first official American response to Moscow’s detention of an American journalist.
This came after a Moscow court ruled that an American journalist, Ivan Gershkovich, who works with a newspaper, should be detained "Wall Street Journal" According to Reuters, Moscow suspected him of spying for Washington, in the most severe measure of its kind taken against a foreign journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine.
And in that, the White House stated, today, Thursday, that the US State Department is in direct contact with the Russian government regarding the news of Moscow’s arrest of a reporter working for the Wall Street Journal.
The White House added in a statement: President Joe Biden’s administration is communicating with the reporter’s family and the newspaper, and that the State Department is still "US citizens residing in or traveling to Russia are advised to leave immediately".
White House spokeswoman Karen Jean-Pierre said in a statement "We are deeply concerned by the disturbing reports of the detention in Russia of US citizen Ivan Gershkovitch".
And she continued "The targeting of US citizens by the Russian government is unacceptable. We condemn the arrest of Mr. Gershkovitch in the strongest terms…we also condemn the Russian government’s continued targeting and suppression of journalists and press freedom".
The Russian Federal Security Service said in a statement, earlier today, Thursday, that a criminal case had been opened against the American citizen on suspicion of spying for Washington, accusing him of collecting information classified as state secrets about a military factory.
The Kremlin added that the accused had been arrested "Red-handed"However, the statement of the Russian Federal Security Service did not mention the name or location of the military factory, and did not provide documented evidence or video clips proving its guilt, according to Reuters.
For her part, Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told Reuters that Russia would allow the United States consular access to a newspaper reporter. "Wall Street Journal" detained at the appropriate time.
US citizen Gershkovitch, who has been working for the Wall Street Journal for just over a year, told the court that he "innocent".
His newspaper also stated that the case against him was based on false allegations, and that this is likely the first criminal case of espionage against a foreign journalist in post-Soviet Russia.
It is reported that under Russian law, the penalty for espionage is up to 20 years in prison.
The move would exacerbate the deterioration of relations between Russia and the United States, which is Ukraine’s largest military supporter, in addition to imposing sanctions on Moscow in an attempt to push it to withdraw its forces, but the Kremlin does not show any signs of that, according to Reuters.
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