Gershkovich trial to be held behind closed doors

Evan Gershkovich
[Getty Images]

The trial of US journalist Evan Gershkovich is to be held behind closed doors, Russian state media has quoted the courts service as saying.

Russian officials have accused the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter of collecting "secret information" from a Russian tank factory for the CIA. He denies the allegations.

His trial will open on 26 June in Yekaterinburg, the city in the Urals where he was arrested last March.

Mr Gershkovich, 32, has since been held in Moscow's high security Lefortovo prison.

The WSJ dismissed the trial as a "sham", while US officials said the charges had "zero credibility".

Russian prosecutors said Mr Gershkovich was caught "red-handed", with the FSB state spy service claiming that he was trying to obtain military secrets.

Prosecutors added that an investigation showed that the reporter had collected "secret information" about the "production and repair of military equipment" from a tank factory.

In a statement, they accused him of carrying "out the illegal actions using painstaking conspiratorial methods... on the instructions of the CIA".

Mr Gershkovich has spent more than a year behind bars on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

US President Joe Biden called Russia's actions "totally illegal", and the WSJ accused Moscow of "stockpiling Americans in Russian jails in order to be able to trade them at a later date".

Russia is holding a number of other US citizens in prisons across the country, including several journalists and active duty military members.

A Kremlin spokesman said "contacts" had been made with the US about a possible prisoner swap, but would not comment further.

Dmitry Peskov said he also could not comment on the fact Mr Gershkovich's trial would be held behind closed doors, calling it a court decision.

Mr Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be arrested on spy charges in Russia since the end of the Cold War more than three decades ago.

In December, the US state department said it had made a "substantial" offer to Russia to secure Gershkovich's release, which was rebuffed.

Moscow is said to be seeking the release of Vadim Krasikov - found guilty in Germany in 2021 of killing a former Chechen commander in Berlin - in return.

President Vladimir Putin appeared to confirm this during an interview with Tucker Carlson earlier this year.