Russian court extends detention of US journalist Alsu Kurmasheva

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A Russian court has ordered US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva to be held in detention until December 5 for failing to register as a foreign agent, according to her employer.

Kurmasheva is employed by the Tatar-Bashkir service Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and is based in Prague, Czech Republic.

According to her employer, Kurmasheva was detained on June 2 in the city of Kazan in Russia while waiting for a return flight to the Czech Republic. She had arrived in Russia on May 20 due to an urgent family matter, RFE/RL, a US-funded news organization, said.

RFE/RL said Kazan airport employees initially confiscated both of her passports and soon after she was fined for failing to register her American passport with the Russian authorities. Kurmasheva was waiting for the return of her passports when new charges were announced on October 18, RFE/RL said, adding that she was accused of refusing to register as a foreign agent.

Kurmasheva’s lawyer, Edgar Matevosyan, was quoted by independent Russian media outlet SOTA Vision as saying she is not guilty and will appeal.

The date of her next court appearance is currently unknown, Matevosyan said, adding that Kurmasheva was also fined for failing to notify Russian authorities of her dual citizenship.

Russia expanded its law on “foreign agents” in 2022 following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, signifying an intensifying crackdown on free speech and opposition under President Vladimir Putin. Now, not only individuals or organizations receiving funding from abroad are regarded as foreign agents but also anyone who has “received support and (or) is under foreign influence.”

Writing about the life of ethnic minorities in Russia’s Tatarstan and Bashkortostan regions, Kurmasheva is described by RFE/RL as an accomplished journalist, who reports on initiatives aimed at protecting and preserving the Tatar language and culture in the face of growing pressure from the Russian authorities.

In March, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on a work trip in Russia and charged with espionage — accusations that he and his employer vehemently denied. Last month, a Moscow court refused to hear an appeal against his pre-trial detention. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

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