POLITICS

Russian court extends the detention of a Russian-US journalist

May 31, 2024, 3:22 AM

MOSCOW (AP) — A court in Russia on Friday ordered a detained Russian American journalist to be held until at least Aug. 5, pending investigation and trial, a further step in the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent and free speech.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service, was taken into custody on Oct. 18 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information about the Russian military. Later, she was also charged with spreading “false information” about the military.

A court in Tatarstan on Friday ordered her to remain behind bars at least until Aug. 5, according to OVD-Info, a Russian rights group that tracks political arrests.

Kurmasheva, a dual U.S.-Russian citizen who lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to RFE/RL.

Russian authorities have intensified a crackdown on Kremlin critics and independent journalists after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022, using legislation that effectively criminalized any public expression about the conflict that deviates from the Kremlin line.

Kurmasheva was the second U.S. journalist detained in Russia last year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. Gershkovich and his employer have rejected the charges, and U.S. authorities designated him wrongfully detained. He has spent a year in custody.

Kurmasheva was initially stopped on June 2 on the way out of Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia the previous month to visit her ailing mother. Officials confiscated Kurmasheva’s U.S. and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her documents to be returned when she was arrested on other charges in October. RFE/RL has called for her release.

RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent, but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.

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Russian court extends the detention of a Russian-US journalist