After a year as Russia's hostage, Evan Gershkovich must be freed

POLITICS: After a year as Russia’s hostage, Evan Gershkovich must be freed

Don’t think Vladimir Putin limits his cruelty to Ukraine: On Friday, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will mark a full year in captivity in a Russian prison — on 100% bogus charges.

And a Russian court this week extended his wrongful detention until at least June 30, the latest date for his trial, the fifth such extension.

The charge against Gershkovich? Spying on Russia.

It’s the first time since the end of the Cold War a US journalist has faced that accusation — and it’s patently preposterous: Gershkovich had been a reporter in Russia (even accredited by its foreign ministry!) for years before his arrest and was merely covering the homefront of Putin’s Ukraine war when arrested.

On Friday, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich will mark a full year in captivity in a Russian prison after being arrested on espionage charges. Moscow City Court press service/AFP via Getty Images

He, the Journal, and the US government all vehemently deny the allegations; Team Biden officially lists him as “wrongfully detained.”

“The accusations against Evan are categorically untrue,” fumes America’s envoy to Russia, Lynne Tracy. “They are not a different interpretation of circumstances. They are fiction.”

The detention is “not about evidence” or “rule of law,” she adds, but “using American citizens as pawns to achieve political ends.”

Putin may want to trade Gershkovich for some Russian thug held by America or its allies.

Yet releasing a totally innocent journalist who was just doing his job in exchange for a real criminal would hardly represent a fair deal.

It also puts all journalists covering Russia at risk.

Detaining Gershkovich, as the UK News Media Association’s Owen Meredith has put it, is “a full-throated assault on the fundamental principles of free speech and democracy.

The work of courageous journalists like Evan is critical to ensuring that we understand as fully as possible the war in Ukraine and its horrific impact upon people’s lives.”

To mark the painful anniversary, the Journal — The Post’s sister publication — sponsored a 24-hour public reading of his reporting by peers and colleagues.

Dozens of swimmers also endured frigid water and rain Saturday off Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, with similar events in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia to press for his release.

Meredith is right: “We all have a stake in this. Journalism is not a crime, and a free press is pivotal to maintaining a free society.”

Americans — and, indeed, anyone who cares about freedom, justice, and basic decency — should not rest until Evan is home.

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