Russian court extends pre-trial detention of US journalist until February 5

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A Russia court extended the detention of Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva on Friday as she awaits trial for failing to register as a “foreign agent.”

The court in the city of Kazan prolonged her detention until February 5. No date has been set for the trial.

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, meaning it gets foreign funding for activity deemed to be political.

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In a statement, RFE/RL acting president Jeffrey Gedmin said: “Alsu has spent 45 days behind bars in Russia and, today, her unjust, politically motivated detention has been extended.”

“We call on Russian authorities to immediately grant Alsu consular access, which is her right as a US citizen. Alsu must be released and reunited with her family.”

Kurmasheva holds both US and Russian passports, and entered Russia on May 20 to deal with a family emergency, RFE/RL said. 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 rubles ($103) on October 11 for failing to register her US passport with Russian authorities. She was charged a week later with failure to register as a foreign agent, an offense that carries up to five years in prison.

The term “foreign agent,” which has Cold War connotations of espionage, has been applied in Russia to organizations, journalists, rights activists and even entertainers, and brings with it close government scrutiny and a mountain of red tape.

Kurmasheva is the second US journalist detained in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine.

In March 2023, the FSB security service arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges that carry a prison term of up to 20 years. Gershkovich, his newspaper and US President Joe Biden have all denied he is a spy, and the US ambassador has accused Moscow of conducting “hostage diplomacy.”

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