Ukraine Latest: ‘Top Secret’ Hearing for Detained WSJ Journalist

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage, according to the FSB Federal Security Service in Moscow.

(Bloomberg) — Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on suspicion of espionage, according to the FSB Federal Security Service in Moscow. 

Gershkovich, a US citizen, “is suspected of espionage in the interests of the American government,” the FSB said. The reporter “collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” according to the statement. The WSJ confirmed Gershkovich was detained and denied the charges. The White House is in touch with the newspaper, CNN reported. 

Turkey’s parliament is expected to vote Thursday to approve Finland’s membership in NATO on Thursday, following through on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s promise to let the Nordic nation into the defense alliance. Finland’s entry will mean NATO’s frontier with Russia roughly doubles in length.  

Key Developments

  • Russia Detains Wall Street Journal Reporter on Spy Charges 
  • Raiffeisen Eyes Russia Unit Sale or Spin-off Amid Pressure 
  • Cargill and Viterra Are Exiting Russian Grain Export Market
  • Putin’s War Is Intensifying Russian Economy’s Labor Shortage 
  • IAEA Drops Push for Security Zone at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant

(All times CET)

Zelenskiy Meets Rheinmetal CEO in Kyiv (4:30 p.m.)

Volodymyr Zelenskiy held a meeting in Kyiv with Rheinmetal AG CEO Armin Papperger, according to a statement on the Ukrainian president’s website. They discussed current cooperation, Ukraine’s frontline needs, and future partnerships.

Zelenskiy thanked Germany’s leading defense company, as well as the entire country, for “comprehensive help and support of Ukraine in the fight against the ongoing Russian aggression.”  

Olympic Chief Hits ‘Deplorable’ Double Standard on Russian Athletes (3 p.m.)

European governments show a “deplorable” double standard in opposing a move to allow some Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the 2024 Paris Games, said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. 

“We have not seen a single comment from them about their attitude about the participation of athletes whose countries are involved in the other 70 wars and armed conflicts in the world,” Bach said on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. 

Several countries have criticized an IOC move to allow some individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutral athletes in Paris. Ukrainian officials have pushed for a ban on Russian participation. 

WSJ Journalist Pleads Not Guilty at Closed-Press Hearing, Tass Reports (2:41 p.m.)

Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Gershkovich pleaded not guilty at a “top secret” hearing in his espionage case, Tass reported, citing law enforcement officials. Tass added that the US citizen’s hearing was closed to the press. 

“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and dedicated reporter,” the newspaper said earlier in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with Evan and his family.”  

King Charles Condemns Russia in Speech to German Lawmakers (1:51 p.m.)

King Charles III waded into European politics on Thursday, praising Germany’s decision to reverse decades of defense policy by supplying Ukraine with arms.

“Germany’s decision to send such significant military support to Ukraine is remarkably courageous, important and appreciated,” Charles said in a speech to the lower house of parliament in Berlin. As head of state, the British monarch traditionally remains above politics.

Speaking to Bundestag lawmakers in German during his first state visit as monarch, he said Russia’s “unprovoked” attack had “inflicted the most unimaginable suffering on many innocent people.”

White House in Touch With WSJ Over Reporter Arrest: CNN (1:30 p.m.)

The White House has been in touch with the Wall Street Journal regarding the arrest of reporter Evan Gershkovich, a CNN correspondent tweeted. 

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank Eyes Russia Unit Sale or Spin-off (1:15 p.m.)

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank plans to sell or spin off its Russian subsidiary, a unit that’s faced criticism for making record profits since the start of the war in Ukraine. 

“The RBI Group will continue to progress potential transactions which would result in the sale or spin-off of Raiffeisenbank Russia and deconsolidation,” the bank’s CEO told a shareholder meeting in Vienna. 

A sale would need approval from Russia’s government and would likely come at a discount of at least 55% to the unit’s fair value. 

Read more: Raiffeisen Eyes Russia Unit Sale or Spin-off Amid Pressure 

Putin Confidant’s Bankers Convicted of Negligence (12:56 p.m.)

Four bankers — including the former boss of Gazprombank’s Swiss unit — were convicted for failing in their due diligence requirements to properly flag financial transactions made by a cello-playing confidant of Vladimir Putin. 

The men were handed suspended sentences subject to two years of probation, a Zurich district court said. The ex-head of Gazprombank Schweiz AG was fined 540,000 Swiss francs ($590,000), while two senior executives and a client relationship manager were ordered to pay lesser amounts. 

Former UK Spy Chief Expects Ukraine to Start Offensive in Coming Months (12:25 p.m.)

“The Ukrainians are very good, as it were, misleading the media, saying it’s not going to happen now. But I think one should anticipate something dramatic should happen in the next few months in the conflict,” Richard Dearlove, former head of British foreign intelligence, told Bloomberg Television.

Ukraine Action Ends IAEA Plan to Secure Nuclear Zone (11:00 a.m.)

There are signals that new fighting may break out soon near Zaporizhzhia, the Russian-occupied nuclear plant in Ukraine, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said late Wednesday. 

Grossi said he’s now working with officials on both sides to develop a plan “focusing more on the protection itself and the things that should be avoided to protect the plant, rather than the territorial aspects.”

Military Action in Ukraine Ends IAEA Plan to Secure Nuclear Zone

Wall Street Journal Concerned for Reporter (10:50 a.m.)

“The Wall Street Journal vehemently denies the allegations from the FSB, and seeks the immediate release of our trusted and unbiased reporter, Evan Gershkovich,” the Journal said in a statement. 

Gershkovich’s recent stories included an examination of the impact of international sanctions on Russia’s economy and one about rising tensions between the Kremlin elite and the Wagner paramilitary force, run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, that has been trying for months to take the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. 

The case follows a string of confrontations between the US and the Kremlin regarding detained citizens, amid worsening relations over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner from prison in December in a swap deal for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout who had been convicted and imprisoned in the US.

Russia Detains Wall Street Journal Reporter on Spy Charges

Zelenskiy Thanks Biden After Democracy Summit (9:50 a.m.)

After participating in a US-hosted Summit for Democracy, Zelenskiy thanked President Joe Biden for his support for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion. While the world is witnessing “the greatest unity of democratic countries in a long time,” even greater solidarity is needed to defeat despotism and oppression, he said in his evening address.

Turkey Set to Approve Finland’s NATO Bid (9:45 a.m.)

Turkey’s parliament will vote Thursday to approve Finland’s membership of the NATO military alliance. The timeline on Sweden’s membership remains unclear as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses the government in Stockholm of not doing enough to crack down on groups that Turkey sees as terrorists and is blocking the country’s application.

Russian Recruitment Drive Likely to Fall Short, Says (7:30 a.m.)

Moscow’s efforts to sign up an additional 400,000 troops is being presented as a drive for “volunteer, professional personnel, rather than a new, mandatory mobilization,” but is likely to fall short, the UK defence ministry said. 

“There is a realistic possibility that in practice this distinction will be blurred, and that regional authorities will try to meet their allocated recruitment targets by coercing men to join up,” the ministry said in a Twitter thread. “It is highly unlikely that the campaign will attract 400,000 genuine volunteers.” 

Zelenskiy Briefs Italy’s Meloni (7 a.m.)

Zelenskiy said he had a telephone call Wednesday with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and informed her about the situation on the battlefield and Ukraine’s needs.

“Already in the coming months, we can be more active on the frontline,” Zelenskiy said. “And we will do everything to ensure that the support of our steps by the world is as effective as possible.”

Republicans Question US Aid for Ukraine (9:15 p.m.)

Some congressional Republicans said billions of dollars in US assistance for Ukraine could be misspent and might be better used for domestic priorities.

While backing US support for Ukraine in its struggle against Russian invaders, Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized western European nations in a hearing Wednesday for not supplying as much assistance as the US. Representative Nathaniel Moran, a Texas Republican, reiterated past GOP arguments that the US was protecting Ukraine while failing to secure the border with Mexico.

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