Russia extended the pretrial detention of American Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich Thursday. The U.S. government says he is being wrongfully detained.

What we know: Gershkovich was detained in March in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison on espionage charges by the Kremlin. He, the U.S. and WSJ adamantly deny the claims. If convicted, the 31-year-old could be facing a prison term sentence of up to 20 years.

  • The pretrial detention will now extend from Aug. 30 to Nov. 30 at the earliest, The New York Times reports.
  • U.S. Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Russia earlier this month and reported “he appeared to be in good health despite challenging circumstances,” per The Associated Press.
  • According to claims by Russia’s Federal Security Service, Gershkovich was “acting on the instructions of the American side, collected information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex,” per AP.

Why it matters: His arrest marks the first time since the Cold War ended “that an American journalist had been detained on accusations of spying in Russia,” per the Times.

  • Russia’s Federal Security Service has “covertly tracked high-profile Americans in the country, broke into their rooms to plant recording devices,” WSJ reported in July.
  • The secretive unit, the Department for Counterintelligence Operations, has “intensified its operations in recent years as the conflict between Moscow and Washington worsened,” per WSJ.
  • According to the WSJ report, Russian President Vladimir Putin operates with direct oversight over the unit and was a former KGB lieutenant colonel heading the Federal Security Service before becoming president.

What President Joe Biden said about an exchange: “I’m serious about a prisoner exchange,” Biden said during a news conference in Helsinki, per CNN. “I’m serious about doing what we can to free Americans who are being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else for that matter. And that process is underway.”

Other Americans imprisoned in Russia: Paul Whelan, a Michigan corporate security executive, has been imprisoned in the country since December 2018, also on espionage charges. The U.S. government and Whelan’s family say the charges are “baseless,” The Guardian reported.