Updated Oct 20, 2023 - World

Russian court extends detention of American journalist

Alsu Kurmasheva

Alsu Kurmasheva. Photo: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

A Russian court on Friday extended the detention of a journalist with dual U.S.-Russian citizenship by another three days, her employer announced.

Why it matters: Alsu Kurmasheva, a journalist at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is the second American journalist to be detained by Russia this year, following the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in March.

The latest: Kurmasheva appeared in court in Kazan, Russia on Friday as the presiding judge accepted the prosecution's request to prolong her detention on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent, RFE/RL said.

  • Her lawyer told the court Kurmasheva is not guilty of the charges, Russian independent news outlet Mediazona reported.
  • Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday that there is "absolutely no campaign to persecute U.S. citizens," Russian state news agency TASS reported.
  • Regarding Kurmasheva's case, Peskov said the Kremlin was "not aware of this and are not following this at all."

State of play: Kurmasheva was detained by Russian authorities Wednesday and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, her employer announced Thursday.

  • Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, lives in Prague and is an editor for RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
  • She traveled to Kazan in May for a "family emergency" and was temporarily detained at the Kazan airport on June 2 while awaiting her return flight, RFE/RL said in a press release.
  • Both her U.S. and Russian passports were confiscated and she was fined for not registering her U.S. passport with Russian authorities. She has not been permitted to leave Russia since then, per RFE/RL.
  • According to the outlet, she was awaiting the return of her passports when the new charge was announced Wednesday. If convicted, she faces up to five years in prison.

Zoom out: "We have not been officially notified by the government of Russia about this arrest yet, but this is a case we have been tracking since May," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing Thursday. He added that the U.S. is "aware of reports" of her detention.

  • "This appears to be another case of the Russian government harassing U.S. citizens," Miller said.

The big picture: "Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children," said Jeffrey Gedmin, RFE/RL acting president, in the press release.

  • "She needs to be released so she can return to her family immediately."
  • CPJ said Kurmasheva was charged by Russian authorities for failing to register as a foreign agent in her capacity as a person collecting information on Russian military activities that "could be used against the security of the Russian Federation."
  • "Journalism is not a crime and Kurmasheva's detention is yet more proof that Russia is determined to stifle independent reporting," said Gulnoza Said, CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator.

Editor's note: This story was updated with comment from a State Department spokesperson and new developments.

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