Russia has extended the detention of Russian-American journalist Alsou Kurmasheva
The temporary detention of the Russian-American journalist Alsou Kurmasheva was extended for 72 hours after the journalist from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), dependent on the US Congress, appeared in court in Moscow this Friday. Kurmasheva’s lawyer, Edgar Matevosyan, told Reuters that Kurmasheva pleaded not guilty. He is the second American journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine, which has plunged relations between Moscow and Washington to their lowest level in more than 60 years.
After the reporter Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, was arrested in March on espionage charges, almost all American journalists left Russia. Washington has repeatedly urged other Americans to leave. “This appears to be yet another case of the Russian government harassing American citizens,” State Department spokesman Matt Miller told reporters Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov denied this on Friday. “There is absolutely no Russian campaign to persecute American citizens,” he said. “There are American citizens who are breaking the law and legal action is being taken against them. There is no other campaign and we consider it inappropriate to mention that there is one.”
Peskov did not comment on the nature of the case against Kurmasheva and said the Kremlin was not following it. That contrasted with his reaction after Gershkovich’s arrest, when Peskov told reporters, without providing evidence, that the journalist was “caught red-handed” while trying to obtain military secrets.
No trial date has been set for Gershkovich or Kurmasheva.
Kurmasheva, who holds both American and Russian passports, entered Russia on May 20 to deal with a family emergency, RFE/RL said. While waiting for his return trip on June 2, he was detained and his passports 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. A week later he was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.
“We are concerned about the decision to extend Alsou’s prison term,” said RFE/RL interim president Jeffrey Gedmin. “Journalism is not a crime. He should be handed over to his family immediately.” RFE/RL called for Kurmasheva’s immediate release, calling her a “highly respected colleague, devoted wife and devoted mother of two children.”