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Moscow Denies Consular Visit to Jailed U.S. Journalist, Citing Visa Row

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gives a press conference at the UN headquarters. Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday it had denied an upcoming consular visit to jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in retaliation to Washington refusing to grant visas to several Russian journalists.

"The U.S. Embassy was informed that its request for a consular visit on May 11... to U.S. citizen (Evan) Gershkovich, who was detained on charges of espionage, has been rejected. Other potential retaliatory measures are being worked out," the Foreign Ministry said.

It added that American “sabotage, aimed at preventing normal journalistic work” would not go unanswered.

Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of retaliatory steps after Washington denied U.S. visas to Russian journalists who were meant to accompany Lavrov on his visit to UN headquarters.

"We won't forget, we will not forgive this," Lavrov said last week.

Gershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg, a city in Russia's Ural Mountains, on March 29 and then ordered to two months of pre-trial detention on charges of espionage — allegations Gershkovich strongly denies.

Gershkovich, a former journalist for The Moscow Times, is the first foreign journalist arrested on spying allegations since the Cold War.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

Earlier this month, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy, who visited Gershkovich at Lefortovo Prison in Moscow, said that he “is in good health and remains strong.”

AFP contributed reporting.

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