Craig Murray: Evan Gershkovich & Julian Assange

Some of us have warned again and again that the prosecution of the WikiLeaks publisher made life more dangerous for journalists operating in difficult conditions worldwide. We were ignored.

Square Ekaterinburg, Russia, 2014. (amanderson2, Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

By Craig Murray

Russia should release Evan Gershkovich; if as part of a prisoner swap it should be speedily concluded.

Gershkovich was arrested in Ekaterinburg while investigating the Wagner Group. Ekaterinburg is one of Russia’s grimmest, most mafia-dominated and least open cities, which I have myself visited specifically to investigate the murders of local Russian journalists.

That was dangerous enough without the complications of a war and the fact Gershkovich was planning to visit the location of a nearby tank factory (it is unclear whether he got to carry out this plan).

I am not in the least surprised he was arrested, but I would have hoped he would simply be deported, or have his visa cancelled like Luke Harding. A journalist from a country openly supplying the enemy in an active war could hardly complain if deported. It is part of the game.

Let us not forget that Russia is still allowing Western journalists to operate inside Russia, while most countries in the West, including the U.K., have closed down all Russian media outlets and canceled the visas of their journalists.

But to charge Gershkovich with espionage for — from what we know so far — simply doing his job, is a major escalation.

I am going to assume Gershkovich was not actually working for the C.I.A. or Ukrainian intelligence. No evidence has so far been produced of this and, so far, I have not seen Russia allege it. If alleged, it would change the game in some respects, but I for now assume that is not in play and Gershkovich was merely functioning as a journalist.

The Biden administration’s problem is that it is in no position to object. Julian Assange is being charged with espionage solely for journalism: there is no allegation he was working for a foreign power.

Assange supporters carry ribbon around the U.S. Department of Justice building in Washington in October 2022. (Joe Lauria)

If Assange committed espionage against the U.S. by publishing national security secrets of the United States, how exactly is Gershkovich not committing espionage against Russia by seeking to publish what it deems its national security secrets?

The answer is of course, that neither committed espionage. They are just doing journalism. But it is an answer the Biden administration cannot give whilst pursuing the prosecution of Assange.

I say this with no pleasure and I am as concerned for Gershkovich’s well-being as I am for Assange’s well-being.

But we warned again and again that the prosecution of Assange made life more dangerous for journalists operating in difficult conditions worldwide. We were ignored.

There is, in one sense, more justification for the prosecution of Gershkovich than for that of Assange. At least Gershkovich was actually in Russia when arrested. Assange is an Australian citizen whose activities were conducted entirely outside the U.S. and is being extradited on an extraordinary U.S. claim of universal jurisdiction.

There are voices within the Biden administration, and within major U.S. media corporations, who have been pointing out the dangerous precedent that the Assange case creates. Hopefully those voices will be strengthened by the Gershkovich case.

But Gershkovich should be released. Just a young journalist doing his job.

Craig Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010. His coverage is entirely dependent on reader support. Subscriptions to keep this blog going are gratefully received.

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The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

29 comments for “Craig Murray: Evan Gershkovich & Julian Assange

  1. DS
    April 7, 2023 at 11:43

    While I fully support any action that would free Assange, I find the comparison inappropriate and illogical.
    Assange is in trouble because he published information that was provided by him to someone else who collected it.
    Gershkovich, it seems to me, is accused of collecting sensitive information of military nature, in time of war, that puts at risk Russia’s national security.
    Now, to me these stories seem radically and substantially different.
    Article like this remind me the religion of blind objectivity and equidistance. Like those who felt compelled to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because they condemn USA and UK’s invasion of Iraq. They deliberately forget to consider that things that manifest in similar way may be inherently different, motivated by different reasons and have different objective, thus they seem but they are not the same. And should be treated accordingly.
    It seems to me that Murray does the same.
    Of course, I am ready to change my mind if Russia fails to provide evidence and to prove him guilty of what he is accused. Also in this case, the comparison is still inappropriate, because a free Gershkovich that did not expose the evils of power is not Assange who did it and is still in jail.

  2. onno37
    April 6, 2023 at 08:20

    Any comment on Julian Assange is silenced by governments. It shows that FREE PRESS doesn’t exist in UK/USA!!

  3. Roger Milbrandt
    April 6, 2023 at 01:30

    I appreciate and share Craig Murray’s enthusiasm about seeing Assange liberated. But the case Murray attempts to make here strikes me as an egregious example of a false equivalence.
    On the positive side, I am delighted to see how many readers noted this. (I sense that by the end of his article Murray too was assailed by doubts.)

  4. Valentino
    April 5, 2023 at 19:28

    You are so right, it makes the U.S., U.K. and it’s vassals look bad, with all the Russia phobia and some countries wanting to erase what Russia did for WWII by taking statue commerating Great Patriotic War, it’s like they want to cancel them. Now, the journalist we don’t know the evidence but it seems he was asking for information on tanks, if it was the U.S. we would question his reasons too. Russia has laws, important to know those laws, just like with Griner, traveling abroad always know the countries laws, do not assume it is like the U.S.

    • Valerie
      April 6, 2023 at 16:03

      “and some countries wanting to erase what Russia did for WWII”

      Yes Valentino. Russia was heralded as the hero of WWII. The liberators of Warsaw, Krakow and Auschwitz. How soon and convenient memories fade.

  5. EugeneGur
    April 5, 2023 at 15:10

    “how exactly is Gershkovich not committing espionage against Russia by seeking to publish what it deems its national security secrets?” Because there are national security secrets and national security secrets. It’s one thing to protect crimes your troops have committed in a past war as “national security secrets”, which, obviously, have nothing to do with the national security.

    And totally another is to protect military secrets directly related to the nation’s ability to fight. A nation at war – I don’t think any rational person would deny that Russia is fighting a war against the collective West – does have legitimate national security secrets, which it should and will protect at all costs. Otherwise, what is to prevent “a young journalist just doing his job” from showing up at a meeting of a Russian General Staff demanding information on the next move of the Russian armed forces? Ridiculous? Yes, and so it to snoop around a tank producing factory.

    By the way, the Russian sources mentioned “special equipment” Gershkovich was caught with, but didn’t specify what kind of equipment. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

    • Valerie
      April 5, 2023 at 16:04

      “By the way, the Russian sources mentioned “special equipment” Gershkovich was caught with, but didn’t specify what kind of equipment. I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

      Maybe a downed Chinese balloon. LOL

    • nwwoods
      April 5, 2023 at 17:19

      The Twitter files have served to further underscore the fact that major U.S. media is inarguably an arm of the deep state in that it tailors its output with factual distortion and lies of omission in furtherance of the interests of the U.S. empire and in opposition to the America’s declared enemies, of which Russia has long been at the top of the list.

  6. Jeff Harrison
    April 5, 2023 at 14:32

    Over on Moon of Alabama, you get a bit of fleshing out of the situation. It appears that Gershkovich was nosing around a number of Russian munitions makers in the city of Yekaterinburg asking workers about shifts and overtime and what the output of the likes of Novator (who makes anti-aircraft missiles and Kalibr cruise missiles) was. Considering that the US is spending it’s time accusing China and Iran of supplying weapons to Russia because “Russia is running out of missiles”, I kinda doubt that Mr. Gershkovich will be seeing the light of day anytime soon. Governments are understandably sensitive about military capabilities in times of war. Having Gershkovich nosing around one of Russia’s weapons manufacturing centers asking production questions for a publication of the country that has publicly said that it wants to strategically defeat Russia says that either Mr Gershkovich or the WSJ or both are fools and idiots. Or, of course, lying.

  7. Neil Harris
    April 5, 2023 at 14:03

    Much as I support Mr Murray as a journalist, it does seem to me that trying to visit a tank factory in Russia while representing WSJ is chancing one’s luck at best. Imagine a Russian journalist trying to visit a US or a UK tank factory? Do you think that journalist would avoid arrest or worse for that? Establishment US media’s saturation propaganda requires not journalism but espionage or propagandists

  8. Joseph Tracy
    April 5, 2023 at 13:39

    Interesting responses. I agree with the dominant theme of commenters that we have little basis to lean in our thinking toward either innocence or guilt for Gershkovich. He was in a foreign country which U.S. leaders have attacked via supply of arms , bombing the pipeline, and declarations of the goal of regime change. We are part of a coalition now escalating to radioactive armaments in the face of military losses. . When you are in a foreign country local law applies. I feel no sympathy if those laws were provably violated. I fail to see some heroic need to do what this reporter seemed to be doing. Was he really about to expose war crimes or just to feed the well fed hate propaganda.
    There is no legal basis for the jailing of Assange; there is only an international criminal alliance whose crimes were exposed.

  9. shmutzoid
    April 5, 2023 at 12:41

    WE don’t have enough info to know if there’s something to the arrest of Gershkovich, or if he’s being detained, a la Brittany Griner, as part of the gamesmanship sideshow & prisoner swap that happens between adversaries. ……..In any event, I would presume any reporter for a US corporate news outlet would have some contact with the CIA prior to leaving for Russia……if not tasked with a mission to obtain specific info, then at least prepped on what to watch/listen for. ……….This drama would be playing out as it is regardless if the US had arrested Assange or not.
    ………… the persecution of Assange is, pure and simple, a warning/threat to journalists worldwide to NEVER look too closely at any actions of the US imperium. The US contempt for independent journalism is very real. Journalists who reveal embarrassing aspects of machinations of political campaigns OR disclose US war crimes are “enemies of the state”.

  10. Blessthebeasts
    April 5, 2023 at 12:19

    How silly to think that this guy was “just doing journalism.”

    • Pepe Escobar
      April 5, 2023 at 21:57

      Did this WSJ greenhorn actually believe that he could waltz around Russia asking nosy questions? The FSB had probably never seen such stupidity, and they have seen plenty..
      As a “journalist” for either the U.S. or British MSM, he is an employee of the spooks, or he wouldn’t be employed..

      • April 6, 2023 at 14:10

        I’m reminded of Chomsky’s BBC interview, ‘I’m saying if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting here.’

  11. Walter
    April 5, 2023 at 12:17

    It is a false juxtaposition to see Assange and Gershkovich as mirrored pair. A false equality. These persons are not in the same class.

    Assange’s “crime” was failing to conceal evidence of war and statuary crime. Obviously concealing such evidence would have been a crime, misprision of a felony hxxps://

    Gospodin Gershkovich published nothing about such crime.

    Further, that was then, prior to the SMO, and this is now.

    Further, as the Sages say… “Dina d’malkhuta dina” Which is to say that in relations between States and People the law is the law of where you are, and you must respect it. Even a child would have realized that nosing ’round a Russian munitions plant in war-time, as a foreigner, would result in arrest…like duh!

    FWIW dear innocent Gospodin G was out of his league…war being somewhat uncharitable.

    Politics, they say, is a blood sport…if so, what’s war, eh?


  12. Peter Hollings
    April 5, 2023 at 12:04

    A source I’ve seen indicates that when he was a student at Bowdoin College Evan took a course where his assignments included preparing country reports per CIA specs. His professor was identified as a CIA recruiter.

      April 6, 2023 at 07:26

      A link to that source would be appreciated.

  13. Jeff Harrison
    April 5, 2023 at 10:33

    Your comment that Russia is still allowing US journalists to operate in Russia whereas “The West” (the US and our vassals) is driving Russian journalists out of “The West” is telling Mr. Murray. You should consider some of the implications of that.

  14. Bushrod Lake
    April 5, 2023 at 10:25

    For many of the positions “ole Joe” has taken, not pardoning Assange is going to cost him the upcoming election. IMO, it is unforgivable.

  15. Piotr Berman
    April 5, 2023 at 09:05

    “Gershkovich was planning to visit the location of a nearby tank factory (it is unclear whether he got to carry out this plan).”

    That seems more substantial than the socializing activities of Marina Butina that made her “foreign agent”. As Craig noted, treatment of Evan is at least in part a retaliation for the treatment of Russian citizens, and that part is the fault of US authorities — and allies. That said, trying to visit “a tank factory” during military operation and extreme hostility (very short of open war) of USA can be argued as an attempt of espionage.

    I hope that Gershkovich will be released without much ado, but it would be also logical to exchange him for a person unjustly kidnapped and jailed by USA, like Alex Nain Saab Morán.

  16. Packard
    April 5, 2023 at 09:01

    Twenty five years ago I may have viewed the arrest of Evan Gershkovich in a very different way. Today, however, I am not particularly inclined to join Mr. Murray with his assumption that there was no CIA (or US State Department, DIA, NSA, FBI) connection to Gershkovich. My presumptions of innocent players in this era of American neocon jingoism has long since died. More information, please. That is, much more information before I can confidently judge Evan Gershkovich‘s current situation.

    Alas, but that is where we stand today. We have become country that increasingly distrusts our unelected & elected power elites in Washington, DC, the cabal of MSM acolytes who carry the elite’s water, the exclusive club of Silicon Valley Davos men, and the raft of Hollywood propaganda potentates.

    Who do you trust today? Trust no one, until you first hear from multiple, independent, and adversarial sources.

    Fide Nemini!

    • Walter
      April 5, 2023 at 16:28

      Well… They say the Joe Kennedy used to pay 25,000 real dollars to one of the major syndicated US journalists…according to Hersh in Dark Side… And it’s difficult to imagine that moral standards have improved…
      And then, see> hxxps://

      Agree, esteemed Comrade Murray seems to have gone a bit funny in his assumptions, naive, we may say.

      That’s rather odd, I think. He’s a big boy, eh?

      QED. Quiz optional… But the implication is obvious… and not nice at all.

    • Piotr Berman
      April 5, 2023 at 16:55

      For a spy, Gershkovich was astonishingly dense. Allegedly, the first thing he did in Ekaterinbug was to interview city council members about the tank factory in the city, and got answers “this is classified information”. If he were not tailed before, he was after. If he was sufficiently fluent in Russian, he should start from crowded cheap eateries or bars, probe delicately and get initial picture, however vague, and try to find a talkative person. May be there are more subtle methods, but starting with the city council… Perhaps he was detained for insulting the craft…

  17. M Le Docteur Ralph
    April 5, 2023 at 06:05

    No one seems to have considered the possibility that Gershkovich was involved with the Integrity Initiative or the Institute for Statecraft.


    • Wade Hathaway
      April 5, 2023 at 13:13

      Oh, that was an interesting ‘rabbit hole’ to go down. Fascinating.

    • nwwoods
      April 5, 2023 at 17:26

      …or the Navalny cult

  18. Henry Smith
    April 5, 2023 at 04:54

    Assange wasn’t working for the spooks, Gershkovich was.
    Murray’s hatred of anything associated with Russia is affecting his judgement.

  19. Dakoda
    April 5, 2023 at 04:49

    Think it is common knowledge that MSM is a fully controled Deep State operation. Anyone being sent to Russia or China by MSM is working for Western intel agencies. CIA

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