The American journalist Evan Gershkovich has been charged with espionage, the state-run Russian news agency Tass reports. The US calls the accusations fabricated.

Wall Street journalist Evan Gershkovich was arrested in late March, accused of trying to obtain classified information about a Russian arms factory. The espionage charge was formally announced on Friday afternoon.

NTB-AFP reports on the case.

Investigators from the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) have charged Gershkovich with espionage in favour of the United States. He categorically rejects all these accusations saying that he was engaged in journalistic activities in Russia, a source in the FSB tells Tass.

The arrest has been met with criticism from, among others, Reporters without Borders and human rights groups. His employer Wall Street Journal also rejects the accusations.

On Friday US President Joe Biden called for Gershkovich to be released. The accusations are ridiculous, says a statement from the White House.

The leaders of the Senate, Chuck Schumer from the Democrats and Mitch McConnell from the Republicans, issued a joint statement on Friday in which they stated that “journalism is not criminal”.

Gershkovich is internationally known and respected and he was accredited by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be able to carry out journalism in Russia, the two Senate leaders state.

The Russian authorities have not presented any credible evidence to justify the fabricated accusations, they say.

Russian authorities said on Thursday that it is pointless to try to pressure Moscow on the issue.

As it is, few Western journalists would consider it safe to stay in Russia under the prevailing circumstances.

China has also made controversial arrests of Western citizens, and received strong criticism that it is all politically motivated.

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