A Russian court on Thursday extended the pre-trial detention of Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist who is accused of violating a law on “foreign agents”. A Reuters reporter in court in the city of Kazan said Kurmasheva’s custody was extended until April 5.
Kurmasheva is a Prague-based journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which is funded by the U.S. Congress and designated by Russia as a foreign agent, meaning it gets foreign funding for activity deemed to be political. Her employer says her detention is unjust and politically motivated.
Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of the Ukraine war in February 2022. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was detained last March and is awaiting trial on spying charges which he, his paper and the U.S. government all strongly deny. Kurmasheva holds both U.S. and Russian passports, and entered Russia on May 20 last year to deal with a family emergency. As she awaited her return flight on June 2, she was detained and her passports were confiscated.
According to court documents, Kurmasheva was fined 10,000 roubles ($103) on Oct. 11 for failing to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities. She was then charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, an offence that carries up to five years in prison, and has been in custody since Oct. 18.
The term “foreign agent”, which has Cold War connotations of espionage, has been applied in Russia to organisations, journalists, rights activists and even entertainers, and brings with it close government scrutiny and a mountain of red tape. In December, a state-affiliated media outlet said Russian investigators had opened a new case against Kurmasheva, accusing her of spreading false information about the Russian army. Kurmasheva’s husband Pavel Butorin, who also works for RFE/RL, said it related to a book that she had edited.
That case has yet to come before the Kazan court. Kurmasheva’s employer and supporters have been lobbying the U.S. government, so far without success, to designate her as “wrongfully detained”.
The State Department has given that status to Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter, and to Paul Whelan, an American convicted of spying in 2020 and jailed in Russia for 16 years. The designation means Washington considers the charges against them as bogus and is committed to work for their release.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)