Wall Street Journal reporter who graduated from Princeton HS arrested by Russia
PRINCETON, N.J. (CBS/AP) -- An American reporter with local ties to the Philadelphia region has been arrested in Russia on charges of spying for Washington, Russia's security services said Thursday.
U.S. citizen Evan Gershkovich, a graduate of Princeton High School in Mercer County, New Jersey, in 2010, was detained by Russia for "spying in the interests of the American government," according to the FSB.
"Princeton Public Schools shares the community's concern about the news that Evan Gershkovich, a graduate of Princeton High School and a Wall Street Journal reporter, has been detained in Russia," a statement from Princeton High School said. "Mr. Gershkovich graduated from Princeton High School in 2010 and was an active and engaged member of the community. It has been a difficult morning for Princeton High School alumni, particularly the many PHS soccer players who were close to Mr. Gershkovich."
Gershkovich earned four varsity letters in soccer and captained the team as a senior. He was also a New Jersey Group III State Champion in 2010 and MCT Champion in 2008-10.
"I knew Evan Gershkovich well," Wayne Sutcliffe, a physical education teacher at Princeton High School and head soccer coach, said in a statement. "He was captain of the Princeton High School 2009 soccer team, which won the New Jersey State Championship. I have been fielding text messages all morning from our Princeton High School soccer alumni, all of whom are trying to find a way we can help to support Evan's family."
"In high school, Evan was a terrific kid and great soccer captain," said a Princeton High School alumna who asked not to be named.
The news of Gershkovich being arrested by Russia drew reactions from political figures locally and nationally.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, who represents New Jersey's 12 congressional district, said she's "outraged" to hear about Gershkovich's detention.
"The detention of Evan Gershkovich is outrageous and completely unacceptable," Watson Coleman said in a statement. "He must be safely and immediately returned to his family. I'm working with my colleagues in the New Jersey delegation and the Administration to ensure his immediate release."
The Wall Street Journal said it was "deeply concerned for the safety" of its reporter, adding in a later statement that it "vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter, Evan Gershkovich. We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family."
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced deep concern over "Russia's widely-reported detention of a U.S. citizen journalist" and said the State Department was "in contact" with the newspaper about the situation.
Gershkovich had recently contributed to reporting for the Journal on the Wagner Group, a company whose founder has links with Vladimir Putin and whose private army of mercenaries has played a key role in the war in Ukraine. Wagner mercenaries have been at the forefront of Russia's ongoing assault on the Ukrainian-held, front-line town of Bakhmut, where Ukrainian forces have told CBS News the private fighters — many of whom were previously recruited from Russian prisons — were being thrown at the front line in waves with seemingly little regard for their lives.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Gershkovich's arrest was "unacceptable" and condemned Russia's actions "in the strongest terms." She said the State Department had been "in direct touch with the Russian government on this matter," and urged Americans living in or visiting Russia to "depart immediately."
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Thursday that President Joe Biden had been briefed on Gershkovich's detention. Kirby said senior WH officials spoke to Wall Street Journal and the State Department has been in touch with the newspaper and Gershkovich's family.
Kirby said they had no indication there would be any action from American journalists, but it is too soon to tell if it is part of some larger movement. "We were just as surprised by this as all of you were," Kirby said.
Before joining The Wall Street Journal, Gershkovich worked for AFP in Moscow. A fluent Russian speaker, he was previously a reporter based in the Russian capital for The Moscow Times, an English-language news website. His family immigrated to the United States from Russia when he was a child.
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