(Washington) The United States on Monday formally denounced the “arbitrary detention” of Evan Gershkovich, an American journalist detained in Russia on espionage charges, and called for his “immediate release”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “determined that Evan Gershkovich is arbitrarily detained by Russia,” according to a statement from department spokesman Vedant Patel.

“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued crackdown on independent voices in Russia and its war on truth,” the statement continued, noting that the US government will provide “all necessary support” to the Wall Street Journal reporter and those close to him.

This qualification of “arbitrary detention”, which had been expected for a few days, triggers a series of procedures within the American administration and in particular allows the authorities to exchange information with the journalist’s relatives.

Shortly before Monday, the spokesperson had pointed out that the Russian authorities had notified the United States of the detention of the journalist, while continuing to refuse consular access.

“The (Russian) ministry provided notification of detention, but still no consular access in violation of its obligations,” he said, urging Russian authorities to do so.

American journalist Evan Gershkovich, a former AFP employee, was arrested in Russia at the end of March. He was formally charged with “espionage” last Friday, a charge he and his employer the Wall Street Journal forcefully denied.

This indictment paves the way for a trial, the date of which has not yet been announced.

The reporter was arrested by Russian security services while reporting in Yekaterinburg, in the Urals. The authorities accused him, among other things, of gathering information on the Russian defense industry.

Washington has also denied those claims.