US journalist’s pre-trial detention in Russia extended to December 5

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A Russian-American journalist who stands accused of breaking Russia’s law on foreign agents had her pre-trial detention extended on Monday until Dec. 5.

Alsu Kurmasheva is a Prague-based journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), which is funded by the US Congress and designated by Russia as a foreign agent, on the grounds that it gets foreign funding for activity deemed to be political.

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Kurmasheva, who holds US and Russian passports, entered Russia on May 20 to deal with a family emergency, RFE/RL said. As she awaited her return flight from Kazan on June 2, she was detained and her passports were confiscated.

She was fined for failing to register her US passport with Russian authorities, and charged last week with failure to register as a foreign agent, an offence that carries up to five years in prison.

Kurmasheva’s lawyer Edgar Matevosyan told Reuters he considered Monday’s decision by the Kazan court “too harsh” and said he intended to appeal. On Friday, Kurmasheva’s detention had been extended by 72 hours.

Under the ruling, she is to be held in a pre-trial detention centre in Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan Republic in western Russia.

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

Kurmasheva is the second US journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of its war in Ukraine, which has plunged relations between Moscow and Washington to their lowest level in more than 60 years.

After Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March on spying charges, which he denies, almost all other US journalists left Russia. Washington has repeatedly urged other Americans to leave.

The US State Department said last week that the proceedings against Kurmasheva appeared to be “another case of the Russian government harassing US citizens”. The Kremlin denied that and called the comment inappropriate.

Washington has requested consular access to Kurmasheva and asked Russia for more information on her situation, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday, adding the United States was “deeply concerned” about her detention.

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