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US journalist’s custody extended in ‘foreign agent’ case by Russian court, raising concerns.

The Detention of Russian-American Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva Extended

Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva has had her detention extended by 72 hours in a case where she is accused of violating Russia’s law on foreign agents. Kurmasheva, a Prague-based journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), is funded by the U.S. Congress and designated by Russia as a foreign agent. She pleads not guilty, according to her lawyer Edgar Matevosyan.

The Second U.S. Journalist Arrested in Russia

Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine. This conflict has severely strained relations between Moscow and Washington. Following the arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, most U.S. journalists left Russia, and the State Department expressed concerns over the Russian government’s treatment of U.S. citizens.

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Denials and Contrasting Reactions from Kremlin

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any persecution of U.S. citizens, stating that legal action is only taken against U.S. citizens who break the law. Peskov did not comment on the specifics of Kurmasheva’s case but mentioned that the Kremlin was not closely following it. This contrasts with the reaction to Gershkovich’s arrest, where Peskov accused the reporter of espionage.

Background and Charges Against Kurmasheva

Kurmasheva, who holds both U.S. and Russian passports, traveled to Russia in May due to a family emergency. While awaiting her return flight in June, she was detained, and her passports were confiscated. Court documents reveal that Kurmasheva was previously fined for failing to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities. She now faces charges of failure to register as a foreign agent, which carries a potential prison sentence of up to five years.

Appeals for Release and Concerns Over “Foreign Agent” Label

RFE/RL has called for Kurmasheva’s immediate release, emphasizing her role as a respected journalist, devoted wife, and dedicated mother. The term “foreign agent” has been broadly applied in Russia, subjecting organizations, journalists, and activists to increased scrutiny and bureaucratic hurdles. It remains uncertain whether Kurmasheva will face additional charges related to her alleged gathering of information on military activity.

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The detention and charges against Alsu Kurmasheva highlight the ongoing tensions between Russia and the United States and the challenges faced by journalists working in Russia.

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