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Russia set to begin trial of WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich on June 26

US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on espionage charges, gestures inside a defendants' cage after a hearing to consider an appeal on his extended pre-trial detention, at the The first court of appeal in Moscow on April 23, 2024. A Moscow court rejected an appeal by jailed Gershkovich against the extension of his pre-trial detention until June 30.    (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images North America/TNS)
Bloomberg News

Russia set June 26 for the opening of an espionage trial against imprisoned Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a step that may hasten negotiations for a possible swap deal.

The trial behind closed doors will take place at the Sverdlovsk Regional Court in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, the court’s press service said in a statement Monday. Gershkovich, 32, and the newspaper have denied Russia’s accusations that he was spying when he was detained by Federal Security Service agents in the city in March last year.

The State Department has formally determined that he’s “wrongfully detained,” allowing the U.S. to negotiate on his behalf. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the state-run Tass news service shortly after Gershkovich’s arrest that talks on a possible exchange “could only be considered after a court verdict.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said at a June 5 meeting with foreign media that intelligence services of the two countries were in contact, and that the U.S. was taking energetic steps to secure the reporter’s release.