Evan Gershkovich
Evan GershkovichREUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

A Moscow court on Thursday upheld a ruling to hold US reporter Evan Gershkovich, arrested in Russia on espionage charges, in detention until January 30, AFP reported.

The 31-year-old, who is the Wall Street Journal's Moscow correspondent, was detained in late March during a reporting trip to the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

He could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He, his newspaper and the US government all strongly deny the accusation.

"Evan Gershkovich will remain in custody until January 30, 2024," the Moscow city court said in a statement on social media, turning down an appeal lodged late last month.

Gershkovich continued to report from Russia despite a large part of the Western press leaving the country after Moscow sent troops to Ukraine.

He became the first Western journalist to be arrested by Moscow on espionage charges since the Cold War, and his arrest marked a further crackdown on media freedom in Russia.

In late August, a judge ruled that his pre-trial custody would be extended to November 30. Gershkovich has appealed the decision.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, asked on Thursday about a possible prisoner swap for Gershkovich and US Marine veteran Paul Whelan, said he hoped an agreement would be reached, but that the U.S. had to listen to Russia's conditions.

"We want to reach an agreement, and these agreements must be mutually acceptable and must suit both parties," Putin said, according to Reuters.

He added Russia had ongoing contacts with the United States over the issue.

"It is not simple, I will not go into details now, but in general, it seems to me that we speak a language that is understandable to each other. I hope we will find a solution. But, I repeat, the American side must hear us and make an appropriate decision, one that suits the Russian side," said the Russian President.

In Washington, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said discussions were ongoing but Russia had rebuffed a serious proposal.

"There was one put forward and they rebuffed it," Kirby told reporters.

Whelan was arrested in 2018, convicted of spying for the US in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison.