Listen to this article US Reporter Arrested On Spying Charges With Putin’s Approval
The strained relations between the United States and Russia have recently faced a major development. On March 29th, Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in Yekaterinburg, Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. The authorities have charged him with espionage, which can lead to up to 20 years of imprisonment.
Sources familiar with the situation report that this is the first time since the Cold War that Russian President Vladimir Putin has personally approved the arrest of a US reporter on espionage charges.
Putin’s Endorsement Reflects Hardliners’ Influence
People, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential matters, believe that the approval of Gershkovich’s arrest by the Russian president reflects the increasing influence of Kremlin hardliners who are advocating for a more aggressive stance towards the United States.These hardliners view the current confrontation with Washington as irreversible and seek to deepen it. Putin’s endorsement of the arrest shows that he is aligned with these hardliners.
US and Allies React with Denunciations
The arrest of Gershkovich triggered angry denunciations from the United States and its allies, marking yet another low in US-Russian ties, which have spiraled since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year. The US and its allies have condemned the arrest and demanded that Russia release Gershkovich immediately.
Signaling a Lack of Stable and Reliable Relationship
Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis in Washington, commented that “this should be a real wake-up call, not just to the US, but the broader West. It’s signaling that in Putin’s mindset, there’s no going back to a stable and reliable relationship.”
Polyakova’s comment indicates that the arrest of Gershkovich represents a significant milestone in the deterioration of US-Russian relations, suggesting that the relationship has reached a point of no return and that Russia has no intention of establishing a stable and reliable partnership with the United States.
The War as an Existential Struggle
As the war in Ukraine enters its second year, the Kremlin has increasingly sought to portray it as an existential struggle against a NATO bent on destroying Russia. Moves like the war-crimes warrant against Putin issued by the International Criminal Court last month have only deepened the leadership’s sense that there’s no room to back down in a conflict that it expects to last for years.
Sharp Toughening of Penalties for Military Service Avoidance
This week, parliament in Russia rushed through a sharp toughening of penalties for those who seek to avoid military service. The changes create a new online system to deliver call-up notices and ban those who ignore them from leaving the country, closing loopholes many had used to avoid the draft.
Observers fear that a new mobilization could occur later this year due to a measure expected to be signed into law soon by Putin, which has fueled concerns. However, the Kremlin has stated that there are no current plans for such a mobilization. Last year, the call-up of 300,000 reservists caused as many as a million Russians to leave the country.
Arrest of Gershkovich Came from Security Hawks
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that it was not Putin’s decision but was “the total prerogative of the special services. They decide whether or not to detain suspects.” However, many believe that Putin had to approve the decision to arrest Gershkovich.Read more: US Reporter Arrested On Spying Charges With Putin’s Approval