A forum at Bowdoin College Tuesday night for Evan Gershkovich. From left: Professor Henry Laurence, classmate Linda Kinstler, Professor Brock Clarke and Wall Street Journal Washington Editor Paul Beckett. Jason Claffey / The Times Record

Journalists and Bowdoin College officials said Tuesday night that they hope publicizing the plight of Evan Gershkovich, a Bowdoin graduate and Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia, will help gain his release.

Gershkovich has been detained in Russia for six months on espionage charges, and there is no sign he will be released anytime soon.

“Evan was simply doing his job,” Bowdoin President Safa Zaki said. “As we gather here this evening, it is the middle of the night in Moscow, where Evan is jailed in Lefortovo Prison, a sprawling and notorious facility. … This is a prison know for the isolation and harsh conditions imposed on its inmates. We are told, through all he has endured, Evan has remained remarkably strong.

“The message we seek to underscore tonight is journalism is not a crime.”

The college hosted a forum Tuesday night to discuss Gershkovich’s work and the dangers faced by journalists.

Gershkovich’s arrest while he was reporting in Yekaterinburg in March garnered international headlines. Russian officials claim he was spying for the U.S., which American officials and the Journal deny. Media organizations across the globe have condemned the arrest, seen as part of a crackdown on journalism by Russian authorities.


Last month, a Moscow court extended his detainment until at least November, and his upcoming trial could last a year. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

American and Russian officials have said they are discussing a possible prisoner exchange for Gershkovich.

Author and editor Linda Kinstler, a Bowdoin classmate of Gershkovich who organized the forum, helped create a website calling for his release and has organized a letter-writing effort to keep him connected to those who support him.

“We’re all here for him,” Kinstler said.

Gershkovich wrote for The Bowdoin Orient and graduated from Bowdoin in 2014. Professor Brock Clarke, who taught Gershkovich in a creative writing class, recalled that he was a gifted writer.

“Our job is to keep his name in people’s ears,” Clarke said.


Paul Beckett, Washington editor for The Wall Street Journal, said Gershkovich was doing important work reporting on Russia’s economy during its war with Ukraine.

“There are precious few insights we get into a country like Russia,” Beckett said. “Evan is one of a small band of reporters who have dedicated their careers to covering Russia.”

When Russia invaded Ukraine, Gershkovich traveled to the Belarus-Ukraine border and was the only American reporter to witness the first wounded Russian forces returning home, according to the Journal.

Russia’s Federal Security Service said in a statement that Gershkovich was conducting “espionage in the interests of the American government” and that he was gathering “information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” according to The Associated Press.

“All he was doing in Russia was reporting for The Wall Street Journal,” Beckett said. “He was doing his job and only his job.”

Beckett said the moment the Journal learned Gershkovich was arrested, it began advocating for his release.


“Being loud was our only option,” he said. “We hope this case remains top of mind for the people at the top who will help get him out. We have to keep going until it’s done.”

Kinstler said it’s “heartbreaking” to see Gershkovich in a glass cage during his recent court appearances in Moscow.

“At least we get a glimpse of him,” she said.

The son of Soviet émigrés, Gershkovich moved to Russia in 2017 to report for The Moscow Times. He was hired by The Wall Street Journal in 2022.

“He had so many options to do something else but he kept on wanting to stay (in Russia),” Kinstler said. “One of the most heartbreaking things about Evan’s situation is we don’t have the stories he would have been reporting on.”

Gershkovich was arrested six days after the U.S. Department of Justice accused 37-year-old Russian national Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov of spying for his home country. The timing was “awful coincidental,” according to one expert.

Russia US Detained Reporter

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at the Moscow City Court in Moscow on June 22. Dmitry Serebryakov / AP file photo

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