US citizen held in Russia facing espionage charges: reports
A U.S. citizen already imprisoned in Russia now faces espionage charges, according to Russian news agencies.
Gene Spector, who was born in Russia, was serving a 3 1/2-year sentence after pleading guilty to bribery charges in 2021. Spector was charged with mediating a bribe to help an aide to the Russian deputy prime minister secure luxury vacations abroad.
An espionage charge could carry a 10- to 20-year sentence if Spector, who was the chairman of the pharmaceutical manufacturer Medpolymerprom Group, is convicted. Details on the charges were not available.
The release of two other U.S. citizens in Russian custody, former Marine Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, has been the focus of U.S. diplomatic efforts.
Whelan is serving a 16-year sentence on espionage charges decried as fraudulent by the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Whelan on the phone this month, according to CNN reports.
Gershkovich, meanwhile, was arrested on espionage charges in March and detained. American officials have also denounced those claims, saying he was merely acting in his role as a journalist.
“Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia, and its ongoing war against the truth,” the State Department said in April.
The State Department has repeatedly warned U.S. citizens in Russia to leave the country amid fractured diplomatic relations and the Kremlin’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.