MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian Federal Security Service investigators have formally charged Evan Gershkovich with espionage but the Wall Street Journal reporter denied the charges and said he was working as a journalist, domestic news agencies said on Friday.
Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said on March 30 it had detained Gershkovich in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg and had opened an espionage case against him for collecting what it said were state secrets about the military industrial complex.
"Gershkovich has been charged," Interfax quoted a source as saying.
TASS reported that FSB investigators had formally charged Gershkovich with carrying out espionage in the interests of the United States, but that Gershkovich, 31, had denied the charge.
"He categorically denied all the accusations and stated that he was engaged in journalistic activities in Russia," TASS citied an unidentified source as saying.
The TASS source declined further comment, citing the classified nature of the case.
"We've seen media reports indicating Evan has been charged," the Journal said in a statement. "As we've said from the beginning, these charges are categorically false and unjustified, and we continue to demand Evan's immediate release."
Gershkovich is the first American journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges since the end of the Cold War.
The Kremlin said Gershkovich had been carrying out espionage "under the cover" of journalism. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the United States that Gershkovich was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secrets.
The United States has urged Russia to release Gershkovich and cast the Russian claims of espionage as ridiculous. U.S. President Joe Biden has called for Gershkovich's release.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to comment publicly on the case.
A fluent Russian speaker born to Soviet emigres and raised in New Jersey, Gershkovich moved to Moscow in late 2017 to join the English-language Moscow Times, and subsequently worked for the French national news agency Agence France-Presse.
Russia announced the start of its "special military operation" in February 2022, just as Gershkovich was in London, about to return to Russia to join the Journal's Moscow bureau.
It was decided that he would live in London but travel to Russia frequently for reporting trips, as a correspondent accredited with the Foreign Ministry.
(Additional reporting by Jake Cordell; Editing by Alison Williams, David Ljunggren and Rosalba O'Brien)