The long shadow of Russia’s suppression of the press rapidly escalated on Friday.

Evan Gershkovich, a 32-year-old reporter for The Wall Street Journal whose Jewish parents emigrated from the USSR in 1979, has already spent over 14 excruciating months behind bars in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison since his March 2022 arrest.

Russian authorities have repeatedly extended his detention without presenting any credible evidence to substantiate their claim that he was spying for the CIA while working as an accredited journalist, according to the WSJ.

However, facts appear irrelevant as Gershkovich now faces prosecution in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, potentially culminating in a mock trial that could see him sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

“Russia’s latest move toward a sham trial is, while expected, deeply disappointing and still no less outrageous,” declared WSJ Editor-in-Chief Emma Tucker in a statement defending her staff writer. “Evan is a journalist. The Russian regime’s smearing of Evan is repugnant, disgusting and based on calculated and transparent lies. Journalism is not a crime.”

Gershkovich is just the latest in a growing list of Americans trapped in Russia’s prison systems. Former US Marine Paul Whelan remains imprisoned on a 16-year sentence after similar allegations of spying. Also, Radio Free Europe journalist Alsu Kurmasheva is reportedly being held for copy editing a book that criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

All journalistic standards of fairness and truth aside, human rights advocates argue Gershkovich’s plight has become emblematic of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin resurrecting one of the Soviet Union’s darkest tactics.

He has often used American prisoners to leverage against President Joe Biden. In December, WNBA star Brittney Griner was rescued from under Putin’s boot after Biden made the agonizing decision to free infamous Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death.”

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