(Moscow) Russia assured the US ambassador on Thursday that it was “useless” to try to pressure Moscow over the case of US journalist Evan Gershkovich, arrested on “espionage” charges that Washington denies.

The new American ambassador, Lynne Tracy, was received on Thursday on this subject by the Russian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Ryabkov.

“The hype surrounding this case […] with the aim of putting pressure on the Russian authorities and on the court that will have to decide the fate of Evan Gershkovich is unnecessary and senseless,” his ministry said in a statement.

According to Moscow, Mr. Ryabkov insisted during this meeting on “the seriousness of the charges against” Evan Gershkovich, a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and who also previously worked for AFP in Moscow.

“He was caught red-handed while trying to obtain secret information, using his status as a journalist as a cover for illegal actions, qualified as espionage,” Mr. Ryabkov assured.

Mr. Gershkovich, arrested in Ekaterinburg in the Urals by the Russian security services, is in pre-trial detention pending trial.

The Wall Street Journal and the reporter, respected by his colleagues for his thoroughness, deny the accusations against him. US President Joe Biden has called for his release.

His arrest, the first of a foreign journalist on such serious charges since the USSR, comes in the context of increased repression in Russia against the press since the offensive against Ukraine, which has greatly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.

President Vladimir Putin had lectured US Ambassador Lynne Tracy on Wednesday during a credentials ceremony at the Kremlin.

He had blamed the conflict in Ukraine on the United States, guilty of having supported the Ukrainian revolution of 2014, considered by Moscow as a “coup” which overthrew the pro-Russian authorities hitherto in power.