Russia: detention of Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva extended until at least October 23

She became the second American reporter detained in Russia

Russia: detention of Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva extended until at least October 23

She became the second American reporter detained in Russia. Arrested this week, Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva saw her pre-trial detention extended on Friday October 20 until at least October 23, during a hearing at the Sovetsky Court in Kazan, in the Russian region of Tatarstan.

“By decision of the court of October 20, 2023, the detention period of A. Kurmasheva is extended by seventy-two hours,” the court said. The journalist working for the American media Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) was arrested in the Russian city of Kazan on Wednesday. She is accused of not having declared herself “as a foreign agent”.

Ms. Kurmasheva was present at her hearing on Friday, in the cage reserved for the accused, wearing an FFP2 mask. She had been taken there by hooded agents, journalists from Agence France-Presse noted on site.

Up to five years in prison

Russia has been accused of waging a campaign of repression against independent media, NGOs, journalists, lawyers and opponents since its invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

While many Russian activists and reporters have fled the country, others – famous or anonymous – have been imprisoned. Several Americans are also detained, including journalist Evan Gershkovich still in detention, who was arrested for espionage by the Russian security services (FSB) during a report in Yekaterinburg on March 29.

Russian authorities deny carrying out any form of “persecution” targeting United States nationals. “There are American nationals who violate laws and against whom we take appropriate measures,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Friday when asked about the subject, adding that he was not following Ms. Kurmasheva’s case.

The Kazan Sovetsky Court declared that the American media journalist was being prosecuted for breaches of her registration in the register of “foreign agents”, while she was engaged in “the intentional collection of information concerning military activities” that could be harmful to “the security of the Russian Federation.”

She faces up to five years in prison. This status of “foreign agent”, which recalls the Soviet term “enemy of the people”, imposes administrative constraints and very heavy financial control on the persons or entities concerned. It also requires that any publication, including on social networks, be accompanied by this label.

Some of the most respected critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin are among these “agents,” such as Nobel Peace Prize winner and editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Dmitry Muratov.

His passports confiscated since May

Ms. Kurmasheva, who normally resides in Prague with her husband and children, had traveled to Russia for a “family emergency” on May 20, but was unable to leave because her American and Russian passports were confiscated. . According to the Tatar Inform website, she was fined on October 11 for failing to declare her U.S. citizenship to Russian authorities. According to this media, which cites anonymous police sources, she notably worked on the mobilization of teachers by the Russian army for the offensive in Ukraine.

Alsu Kurmasheva, who joined RFE/RL in 1998, works for her service in the Tatar and Bashkir languages, covering Russia's ethnic minorities in particular Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, the Volga and the Ural regions.

Based in Prague, RFE/RL is funded by the US Congress and was founded during the Cold War to counter Soviet propaganda in the Eastern Bloc. The media still publishes content in a multitude of languages, often sensitive in countries ruled by authoritarian regimes.

“I came to work for [RFE/RL] because this media is important to me, its mission to bring objective information to my people, the people who speak my language, Tatar, in particular,” Ms. Kurmasheva explained in 2014.

In recent years, several American citizens arrested in Russia have been released after prisoner exchanges with Washington.