Chris Lange, FISM News
Russia’s top security agency on Thursday announced the arrest of a Wall Street Journal correspondent on espionage charges.
The Associated Press reported that Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said that reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained while allegedly attempting to obtain classified information.
The security service alleged that Gershkovich “was acting on the U.S. orders to collect information about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military industrial complex that constitutes a state secret.”
The FSB did not say when the arrest took place. Gershkovich could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“Our friend & colleague @evangershkovich has been detained in Russia,” The Washington Post’s Russia correspondent Francesca Ebel tweeted. “The FSB has accused him of spying. He was fully accredited as a reporter by MFA. Evan is an excellent thoughtful journalist who cares deeply about his work & these allegations are absurd.”
Gershkovich’s arrest marks the first detainment of a U.S. journalist on espionage charges since the Cold War. The FSB acknowledged that he had accreditation from the Russian Foreign Ministry to work as a journalist.
RUSSIA STOPS NOTIFYING US OF MISSILE TESTS
A senior Kremlin diplomat announced Wednesday that Moscow will no longer provide Washington with information about its missile tests, The Associated Press reported.
The announcement came hours after the U.S. said it would no longer share strategic nuclear forces data with Russia, citing Moscow’s noncompliance with the 2010 New START nuclear arms treaty.
“There will be no notifications at all,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agencies Wednesday. “All notifications, all kinds of notifications, all activities within the framework of the treaty will be suspended and will not be conducted regardless of what position the U.S. may take.”
Later in the day, Russia’s military demonstrated its massive nuclear capacity by rolling missile launchers across Siberia in a show of strength.
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said that the Biden administration was aware of Ryabkov’s comments but noted that the White House had not “received any notice indicating a change.”
He emphasized that the administration has “across-the-board concerns about Russia’s reckless behavior as it relates to the New START treaty.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin suspended the 2010 treaty in February, saying that Russia could no longer accept nuclear site inspections from the U.S. since Washington and its NATO allies had made it clear that their objective is to see Moscow defeated in Ukraine. Putin emphasized that Russia would continue to respect caps on nuclear weapons set by the treaty.
RUSSIA AND IRAN STRENGTHEN TIES
Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow Wednesday, according to the Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
The two officials met to “review strategic and long-term cooperation agreements that will likely intensify Russia and Iran’s bilateral security relationship,” according to the ISW.
Abdollahian disclosed that Tehran and Moscow officials are in the final stage of signing a cooperation agreement. Lavrov, meanwhile, advocated for Iran’s “Hormoz Peace Plan” for security in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The Kremlin foreign minister also demanded an immediate return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a 2015 nuclear pact entered into by Iran and the P5+1, which includes China, France, Germany, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S. The deal was endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.
The ISW said that Abdollahian and Lavrov “likely discussed continued Russian efforts to procure Iranian weapon systems for use in Ukraine and a finalized agreement for Russia to provide Iran with Su-35 attack aircraft.”
The Ukrainian Resistance Center said Wednesday that “Iranian Pouya Air Transport resumed regular flights between Tehran and Moscow on March 13 likely to support weapons transfers. Ukraine added that Iran plans to send Shahed-132 drones to Russia’s Wagner Group, whose fighters have already begun training on the operation of the drones.
UKRAINE PURPORTEDLY STRIKES CRITICAL RAIL DEPOT IN RUSSIAN-OCCUPIED TERRITORY
Ukraine struck a railway depot deep behind the front line Wednesday, knocking out power in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol.
Reuters reported that unverified images showing explosions and streaks of contrails lighting up the night sky over Melitopol were being circulated on social media.
Russia’s state TASS news agency confirmed that a railway depot in Melitopol was destroyed Wednesday night.
In the morning, the Armed Forces hit the occupiers in Melitopol.The mayor I. Fedorov
"Immediately,there were several explosions in a row, and then smoke in the area of the locomotive depot substation.After that, the lights went out in some areas of the city,"said the city's mayor pic.twitter.com/nOvM0rBxX1
— Feher_Junior (@Feher_Junior) March 29, 2023
No information about the type or number of weapons Ukraine used in the purported attack had been made public at the time of this reporting.
With a prewar population of 150,000, Melitopol is the base of the occupation administration in Zaporizhzhia, one of five Ukrainian provinces Russia claimed to have annexed last year. The city serves as a key railway logistics hub for Kremlin forces in southern Ukraine and is part of the land bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.