Russia orders American journalist detained for another 6 weeks

October 23, 2023

A Russian court on Monday ordered Alsu Kurmasheva, a journalist for U.S.-backed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), detained for an additional six weeks. 

Kurmasheva, who holds both U.S. and Russian passports, was arrested last week on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, which carries a punishment of up to five years in prison if convicted. 

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 was stopped on June 2 at Kazan International Airport in Tatarstan, a republic of the Russian Federation. Officials confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was slapped with the additional “foreign agent” charge last week. 

Kurmasheva reported on ethnic minority communities in both Tatarstan and the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, including efforts to preserve the Tatar language and culture.

According to RFE/RL, the court in Russia ordered Kurmasheva detained until at least December 5, rejecting her attorney’s request for preventive measures other than incarceration. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists has chimed in on Kurmasheva’s arrest, expressing deep concern. CPJ has called the charges against her “spurious.” 

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

PHOTO Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

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