Evan Gershkovich Marks One Year in Russian Prison

Happy Monday, and happy Easter to our readers who celebrated on Sunday! We hope it was a blessed and joyful day. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Tel Aviv and other cities across Israel Saturday evening, calling for both the return of the hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 and for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ouster. The weekend’s demonstrations—the largest since the war’s start—came ahead of a Monday deadline for the coalition government to agree to a new law regarding whether the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community should keep its exemption from the military draft, which has divided the secular and religious conservative members of Netanyahu’s coalition. Additional mass protests demanding the release of the abductees in Gaza began outside of the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday and are expected to continue through Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Netanyahu underwent surgery for a hernia Sunday evening, temporarily transferring his duties to Justice Minister Yariv Levin.
  • Jeffrey Donaldson—the leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which supports remaining in the United Kingdom—resigned Friday after he was charged with “non-recent” sexual offenses. After a two-year boycott, Donaldson last month ushered the DUP into a power-sharing agreement with Sinn Féin—a party that favors becoming a part of Ireland—that may now be at risk with a DUP leadership change. 
  • Friday marked one year in Russian prison for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in Yekaterinburg, Russia, last March while on a reporting trip and accused of espionage—charges he and his employer deny. The State Department has designated the journalist “wrongfully detained” and called for his immediate release. “To date, Russia has provided no evidence of wrongdoing for a simple reason: Evan did nothing wrong,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on the anniversary of Gershkovich’s arrest. “Journalism is not a crime.” 
  • Turkey’s largest opposition party swept municipal elections on Sunday, holding or taking control in the country’s five largest cities—including the capital, Ankara—and dealing a blow to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice Development Party (AKP). In Istanbul, the largest city in the country, residents reelected Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) to a second term, cementing Imamoğlu as a serious challenger to Erdoğan.
  • The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, increased 2.5 percent year-over-year in February, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported Friday—ticking up from a 2.4 percent annual rate one month earlier. After stripping out more volatile food and energy prices, core PCE increased at a 2.8 percent annual rate in February, stubbornly—though expectedly—above the Fed’s 2 percent target. 
  • The Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued its highest level warning—short of pulling a product from the market and reserved for products that may cause “serious injury or death”—for an Impella heart pump connected to 49 deaths and more than 100 serious injuries since it was approved in 2008. The alert warned of the potential for injuries from the device—which is used to help support a patient’s heart—due to “operator handling” and requested that information about the risks be added to the device’s instruction manual. 
  • Former President Donald Trump and several co-defendants on Friday asked an appeals court to review Judge Scott McAfee’s decision allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on the sprawling racketeering case against Trump and his co-defendants accused of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Georgia. In a decision last month, McAfee ruled that Willis was allowed to remain in charge of the case despite having a romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired—provided the special prosecutor resigned, which he did. It’s not clear whether the appeals court will take up the defendants’ request. 

The Challenge of Bringing Americans Home 

An illustration of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on espionage charges in Russia, is displayed during the WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, on October 16, 2023. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
An illustration of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested on espionage charges in Russia, is displayed during the WSJ Tech Live conference in Laguna Beach, California, on October 16, 2023. (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

On March 29, 2023, Evan Gershkovich arrived at a steakhouse in Yekaterinburg—a Russian city in the Ural Mountains—during a reporting trip, ready to meet with a source. Gershkovich didn’t know it would be the last thing he did as a free man: Russian security agents led him out of the restaurant. As of Friday, the Wall Street Journal reporter has been in detention at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow for a year. 

Gershkovich—accused of espionage by Russian authorities—is one of dozens of Americans currently being detained wrongfully overseas, including several others held in Russia. The process of bringing people home often takes years, and when official channels stall, cases can hinge on the personal efforts of a handful of non-government actors working on behalf of the detainees’ loved ones.

Gershkovich has spent much of the past year in solitary confinement, with one hour each day spent outside in a small prison courtyard. The world has caught glimpses of him only in photos and videos from a dozen court appearances where his detention has been repeatedly extended. Evan is the first American journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since 1968, but both the Journal and the U.S. government strongly deny the spying charges against him.

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