Russian Extortion Message to Wall Street Journal Threatens ‘Fate’ of U.S. Journalist
A Moscow insider threatened The Wall Street Journal to stop publishing alleged “misinformation” about Russia, or else Evan Gershkovich—the Journal’s detained reporter, will face consequences, according to state media outlet RIA Novosti.
Speaking to the Russian publication, the source warned that if the Journal doesn’t stop publishing what it called incorrect information, it would be a sign that the paper is not interested in Gershkovich’s future.
“If the Wall Street Journal continues to engage in non-journalistic activities, publishing misinformation about Russia, this will mean that the editors are not at all interested in the fate of Gershkovich,” the “informed source,” which RIA did not identify, reportedly said.
The threat, published Friday, was not immediately verifiable. The State Department and The Wall Street Journal did not immediately return requests for comment.
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) detained Gershkovich in March while he was on a reporting trip, alleging that he was conducting espionage activities on behalf of the United States government. The State Department and The Wall Street Journal have vehemently denied that claim and have been working to secure his release ever since.
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The reported threat comes just days after a Russian court order that Gershkovich be held for three more months. Lawyers representing him appealed the order on Thursday, according to Russian court records obtained by The Daily Beast.
Russia has sought to tamp down on public conversations about Gershkovich and other detainees and negotiations for their release. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said American officials should stop pressuring Russia over Gershkovich’s negotiations earlier this month.
“Dialogue involves the search for some solutions. From the American side, we see only attempts to pressure, pressure, threats. There is no dialogue in this genre,” he said.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov previously warned against Americans speaking out publicly during negotiations for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s release.
“The U.S. already has made mistakes, trying to solve such problems via ‘microphone diplomacy.’ They are not solved that way,” Peskov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged negotiations to take place behind closed doors last year.
“If the Americans again try to engage in public diplomacy and make loud statements about their intention to take certain steps, it’s their business, I would even say their problem,” he said.
The State Department last month officially recognized Gershkovich as “wrongfully detained” in Russia and has called for his immediate release.
“Journalism is not a crime,” State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a statement at the time. “We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth.”
The Biden administration also called for the release of Paul Whelan, a former Marine that has been detained in Russia since 2018.
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