More than 300 foreign journalists who worked in Moscow at different times published an open letter addressed to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia,

Sergei Lavrov

, with a call to drop charges of espionage against The Wall Street Journal correspondent Ivan Hershkovich, who was arrested in Russia, and to release him immediately.

The letter was signed by 301 journalists from 22 countries, many of whom have worked in Russia for many years.

They include former employees of The New York Times Andrew Kramer, Bill Keller and John Kampfner, editor-in-chief of The New Yorker David Remnick, Edward Lucas of the Economist, correspondents of The Guardian Sean Walker and Luke Harding, correspondent of a number of British newspapers Tom Parfitt, former employee of Radio Freedom David Sutter and others.

"We all worked in Russia as foreign correspondents, some for a few months, some for decades.

We are shocked and appalled by the arrest of our colleague Evan Hershkovich and the charges brought against him.

Evan Hershkovich has a long and impressive experience of journalistic work.

We have no doubt that the sole purpose of his work was to inform readers about the current reality in Russia.

The search for information, even if it goes against political interests, does not make Evan a criminal or a spy, but it does make him a journalist.

Journalism is not a crime.

The arrest of Evan Hershkovich sends an alarming and dangerous signal about Russia's disregard for independent media and demonstrates indifference to the fate of a young, talented and honest journalist," the letter says.

Wall Street Journal correspondent Evan Hershkovich was detained in Yekaterinburg at the end of March.

The court sent him to the Moscow pre-trial detention center.

The Russian authorities say that the journalist was detained "with evidence of a crime", without explaining what that means.

The FSB said that Hershkovich allegedly collected secret information about one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.

The journalist insists on his innocence.

Details of the case are unknown.

This is the first case of an American journalist being arrested in Russia on charges of espionage since the Cold War.

US authorities, international journalistic publications and Russian independent journalists have previously called for the release of Hershkovich.

The US State Department declared The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) journalist

Evan Hershkovich

, arrested in Russia on charges of espionage, "unlawfully detained."

This gives the State Department a reason to act in the interests of the release of the US citizen, the Associated Press writes.

"State Secretary Anthony Blinken ruled that Evan Hershkovich is illegally detained by Russia.

Journalism is not a crime.

We condemn the Kremlin's ongoing repression of independent voices in Russia and its ongoing war against the truth," the US State Department said in a statement.

Journalist John Hudson

of The Washington Post

noted on Twitter that recognizing Hershkovich as "unlawfully detained" is a formal step aimed at speeding up the work for his release.

Evan Hershkovich has been living in Moscow for about six years, covering events in Russia and Ukraine for his publication.