Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday that it detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich while he was on assignment in the city of Yekaterinburg, state media RIA “Novosti” reports.

US citizen Hershkovich was engaged in collecting “secret information” about a Russian defense enterprise, a criminal case of espionage has been opened against him, reports RIA Novosti with reference to the FSB.

Previous local media reports suggested that Hershkovich was in Yekaterinburg to cover Russia’s war in Ukraine and Wagner’s mercenary group.

While most independent journalists working in Russia fled the country last year following draconian censorship laws, many foreign journalists continue to work in the country.

PR expert Yaroslav Shirshikov said On Thursday, he received a phone call on the Telegram messaging app from a WSJ staffer who was unable to reach Hershkowicz.

“[Gershkovich] was last online yesterday around 3pm. He arranged an interview with me.” – quotes Shirshikova.

Veteran Yekaterinburg journalist Dmitriy Kolezev, who now lives abroad, said On Thursday, two of his sources confirmed the arrest of Hershkovich.

Kolezev told The Moscow Times that he believed Hershkovich was detained for reporting.

“I believe that the reason was Evan’s journalistic work,” said Kolezev.

Shirshikov wrote On Thursday, Telegram said that Hershkovic may have been detained the day before, when special services officers entered a local restaurant and took an unknown man with a sweater on his head to a minibus.

The WSJ did not immediately respond to The Moscow Times’ request for comment.

Gershkovich, 31, previously worked as a reporter for Agence France-Presse and The Moscow Times.

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