Russia on Thursday extended the detention of US reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in March on spying charges that he denies and held in a Moscow prison since, by three months.

Gershkovich, a Moscow correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, had continued to report from Russia during Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine.

“The time of detention has been extended by three months... Until November 30, 2023,” a spokesperson for Moscow’s Lefortovsky court said.

AFP was denied access into the courtroom for the hearing, which was held behind closed doors.

But AFP reporters saw the 31-year-old, handcuffed and wearing a chequered shirt and jeans, being escorted into the court by masked men.

After the hearing, one of Gershkovich’s lawyers left the court without giving any comment to journalists.

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Gershkovich was arrested during a reporting trip in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on March 29, becoming the first Western journalist to be arrested on espionage charges in Russia since the Soviet era.

Russia has not provided public evidence of the accusations and the legal proceedings have been classified as secret.

He has since been held in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison, famous for keeping inmates in near-total isolation.

US President Joe Biden has called for the reporter’s release.

Many Western journalists left Russia after the Kremlin sent troops to Ukraine, when conditions for reporting became more difficult and Moscow made it harder for journalists to obtain accreditation.

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The United States said in July that there was still no clear “pathway” to getting Gershkovich home, despite high-level talks.

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