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Thursday Briefing: Evan Gershkovich’s Trial

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter and a U.S. citizen, has already endured 15 months in a notorious Moscow prison. Yesterday, his trial finally began.

Shortly before the proceedings started, journalists filmed Gershkovich standing in a glass cage and nodding at people in the courtroom, video showed.

Gershkovich, 32, faces up to 20 years in a penal colony on a spying charge that he, his employer and the U.S. have all called bogus and politically motivated. There is little doubt about the outcome of the trial, but there may be hope: a prisoner exchange.

“It’s widely accepted that the Russian state regards his case as leverage to get Russians held in custody — either in the U.S. or in other Western countries,” said my colleague Ivan Nechepurenko, who is based in Tbilisi, Georgia, and has covered Gershkovich’s case.

“There’s going to be this trial, but the more important process will be the ongoing talks between Russian and American intelligence services about a potential prisoner exchange,” Ivan said.

The Russian authorities haven’t revealed any evidence to support their charges. Observers have been barred from attending the trial, which began in the industrial city of Yekaterinburg, near the Ural Mountains. His lawyers have been prohibited from publicly revealing anything they learn.