Russian Activist Who Gave Interview To Jailed U.S. Reporter Released From Pretrial Detention

An activist from the Urals city of Yekaterinburg has been released from pretrial detention where he was placed in April after being interviewed by Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and helping him before the U.S. journalist himself was arrested on espionage charges.

A court in Yekaterinburg ruled to release Yaroslav Shirshikov but ordered him not to leave the city as the investigation into his case continues.

Shirshikov was detained and charged with the "justification of terrorism" after police searched his home on April 18.

The charge against the activist stems from a recent post on Telegram in which he said that Vladlen Tatarsky -- the pen name of prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Maksim Fomin, who was killed in an apparent assassination in St. Petersburg in early April -- was "a thug."

Tatarsky was known for his support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and support for Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. Shirshikov wrote in his post that he did not feel sorry about his death.

In his interview with Gershkovich, Shirshikov also talked about the attitude in Russian society toward the notorious Wagner mercenary group, a private company that has been at the forefront of fighting in Ukraine.

Gershkovich had been reporting on Russia for more than five years at the time of his arrest. He is a fluent Russian-speaker, the son of emigres who left the Soviet Union for the United States during the Cold War.

Shirshikov broke the news about Gershkovich's detention in Yekaterinburg in late March.

U.S. citizen Gershkovich, his employer, The Wall Street Journal, and the U.S. government have all rejected the claim that he was involved in espionage.

If convicted, Shirshikov, a professional public relations expert, may face up to seven years in prison.

In July last year, Shirshikov was fined for openly criticizing the war in Ukraine.

With reporting by It's My City