Russia Extends American RFE/RL Journalist’s Detention to December


A Russian court on Monday extended the detention of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Alsu Kurmasheva until December.

Kurmasheva was detained by police last week on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent. Kurmasheva is believed to be the first person taken into custody for failing to comply with the registry.

On Monday, a court in the Russian city of Kazan rejected a bid by Kurmasheva’s lawyer to allow Kurmasheva to be freed pending trial, RFE/RL reported. The journalist will be detained until at least December 5.

“We are deeply disappointed by the outcome of today’s hearing,” RFE/RL acting President Jeffrey Gedmin said in a statement. “We call for Alsu’s immediate release so she can be reunited with her family.”

Russia designated the U.S. Congress-funded RFE/RL a foreign agent in 2020. The Russian Justice Ministry has also designated more than 30 RFE/RL staffers as foreign agents in their personal capacity.

Russia Extends American RFE/RL Journalist’s Detention to December

Alsu Kurmasheva, a journalist with Prague-based Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, poses in an undated photo. (RFE/RL)

RFE/RL, like VOA, is an independent broadcaster under the U.S Agency for Global Media. The network did not comply with the foreign agent registry, saying at the time it would be an “invasion” of its editorial process.

Kurmasheva’s lawyer has said he believes the court’s ruling was “too harsh” and that he plans to appeal.

Kurmasheva, who holds dual U.S.-Russian citizenship, is the second American journalist to be jailed by Russia this year.

Evan Gershkovich, a Moscow-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has been jailed since March on spying allegations that he, his media outlet and the U.S deny.

Since his arrest, Gershkovich has been granted five U.S. consular visits.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said the Russian government may deny consular access to Kurmasheva because she is a dual U.S.-Russian national.

“We, of course, have no higher priority than the safety and security of the U.S. citizens overseas. We are aware of reports concerning the detention of Alsu Kurmasheva in Russia,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a briefing. “Whenever a U.S. citizen is detained overseas, the department works to provide all appropriate assistance.”

Miller added that Moscow has not yet officially notified Washington about Kurmasheva’s case.

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

Russia’s Washington Embassy did not immediately reply to VOA’s emails requesting comment.

Based in Prague, Kurmasheva is a reporter with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service. She traveled to Russia for a family emergency in May. While waiting for her return flight in June, she was temporarily detained at the airport, and her passports were confiscated.

Kurmasheva was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was arrested and charged last week. She faces up to five years in prison.

The U.N. Human Rights Office, U.S. lawmakers, and international press freedom groups have condemned Kurmasheva’s detention and called for her immediate release.

The National Press Club in Washington called on the U.S. government to “declare Alsu’s detention unjust, opening resources to support her release.”

“Alsu is the second U.S. citizen to be held by Russia since the cold war — joining Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal who was taken more than six months ago and is held in Moscow,” the club said in a statement. “We call for [Alsu’s] immediate release.”


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