Russia arrests American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty editor

October 19, 2023

Authorities in Russia have detained Alsu Kurmasheva, an American editor with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the broadcaster said Thursday.

Kurmasheva holds both U.S. and Russian passports. She’s one of the few American journalists left inside Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and its wrongful detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was arrested in March and has been ordered to stay behind bars until at least November 30.

The State Department has repeatedly urged U.S. citizens in Russia to leave and other Americans not to travel there.

However, Kurmasheva, who’s based in Prague for RFE/RL, traveled to Russia on May 20 for a family emergency. She sought to leave at the end of her trip but was detained and had her passports confiscated. She was fined for failing to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities, and she’s been charged with not registering as a “foreign agent.”

RFE/RL acting president Jeffrey Gedmin countered that charge by saying, “Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children.” He insisted that she be released so she can return to her family “immediately.”

So far, Kurmasheva has not been designated  “wrongfully detained,” which would shift supervision of her case to a specialized State Department section, called the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. That department is focused on negotiating for the release of captives.

Gershkovich was designated “wrongfully detained” soon after his arrest. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists has chimed in on Kurmasheva’s arrest, expressing deep concern.

“Journalism is not a crime and Kurmasheva’s detention is yet more proof that Russia is determined to stifle independent reporting,” said CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza Said.

PHOTO Source: Petr Kadlec

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