Reporter expelled from Russia shares his insight on Evan Gershkovich case

Apr 3, 2023, 9:00 PM | Updated: Jan 5, 2024, 3:00 pm

The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo. Russia's securi...

The Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich is shown in this undated photo. Russia's security service arrested the American reporter for The Wall Street Journal on espionage charges, the first time a U.S. correspondent has been detained on spying accusations since the Cold War, the Federal Security Service, known by the acronym FSB, said Thursday, March 30, 2023. The newspaper denied the allegations and demanded his release. Andrew Nagorski, a reporter who was expelled from Russia in the 1980s, discussed the current situation on Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson. (The Wall Street Journal via AP)

(The Wall Street Journal via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — Last week, it was reported that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has been arrested in Russia and charged with spying.

Former U.S. journalist Andrew Nagorski was kicked out of Russia in 1982 after the government became upset with his reporting. Nagorski joined Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson on Monday to discuss his case and the case involving Gershkovich. They also discuss the seriousness of the espionage charge.

Matheson starts the conversation, “Why don’t we start with your experience, and then let’s apply it to the news of the day.”

Before the Evan Gershkovich case

Nagorski went to Moscow as a young journalist in 1981 for Newsweek Magazine

“When  you went to Moscow in those days,” Nagorski said. “You knew very well that there were various traps, there were various pitfalls that you might fall into.”

He says while Russia accredited western journalists, there were all sorts of procedures a journalist was required to follow. For instance, if you were traveling outside of Moscow, you had to let the Foreign Ministry press department know where you were going.

“They had various ways of putting pressure on you if they didn’t like what you were reporting,” Nagorski said. 

His work included a story on the unrest in the Baltic States when things were very repressed. He also went to central Asia and talked to Muslims about their war in Afghanistan.

“I immediately got into a sense that they were angry with me about various reports,” Nagorski said. 

He says the KGB began following him with the idea to intimidate him. Additionally, they also followed him to possibly intimidate any Soviets who may have wanted to speak with Nagorski.

During those days, Nagorski thought the worst that could happen to him was that he would be expelled from the country.

“Although there was always that possibility that they might accuse you of spying,” he said. “Which is an awful accusation in the sense that whatever you say, some people may believe some of it. But because as a journalist, you do all these things that could be interpreted as spying. You’re looking for information, you’re talking to people, you’re observing, but they clearly knew I was not a spy.”

Evan Gershkovich is a journalist, not a spy

He says that Russia clearly knows Gershkovich is not a spy.

“But they’re doing it for other reasons,” Nagorski said.

Nagorski says Gershkovich was accredited to be there. However, when tensions between the US and Russia rise, reporters such as Gershkovich become an easy target. Additionally, he has Gershkovich speaks good Russian as both his parents are from there.

“The more a reporter is comfortable in that society and linguistically, the more they dislike him,” Nagorski said. “They like people who are as ignorant as possible or as unobservant as possible.”

Nagorski isn’t sure who Russia would want from the US in exchange for Gershkovich, but says there is another issue at work here.

“At a minimum, they want to squeeze the remaining journalists as much as possible,” he said. 


Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app. 

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Reporter expelled from Russia shares his insight on Evan Gershkovich case