Russian-American journalist for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Alsu Kurmasheva, who is in custody after she was accused of violating Russia's law on foreign agents, stands inside an enclosure for defendants as she attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia, December 1, 2023. (Reuters/Alexey Nasyrov)
U.S.-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who was accused of violating Russia's foreign agents law, stands inside an enclosure for defendants at a hearing to extend her pretrial detention in Kazan, Russia, on December 1, 2023. (Reuters/Alexey Nasyrov)

Russia extends detention of RFE/RL journalist Alsu Kurmasheva by 2 months

New York, December 1, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a Russian court’s decision in a closed-door hearing on Friday to extend the pretrial detention of U.S.-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva until February 5, 2024.

“Each day Alsu Kurmasheva spends in Russian detention on absurd criminal charges is another blow to press freedom and journalists’ rights to report independently,” said Carlos Martinez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “Russian authorities must immediately grant Kurmasheva consular access, drop all charges against her, and release her.”

A request for U.S. consular officials to visit Kurmasheva, an editor with the Tatar-Bashkir service of U.S. Congress-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was denied on November 15.

Kurmasheva, a dual U.S.-Russian citizen who lives in the Czech capital, Prague, was detained on October 18 on charges of failing to register herself as a foreign agent, for which the penalty is up to five years in prison, according to Russia’s Criminal Code. Kurmasheva denied the charges.

Kurmasheva traveled to Russia for a family emergency on May 20 and was temporarily detained at the airport in the western city of Kazan on June 2 before her return flight, when authorities confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her 10,000 rubles (US$105) for failure to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities. A hearing on Kurmasheva’s appeal against the fine is scheduled for December 4, according to the independent news outlet Sota.  

“Alsu has spent 45 days behind bars in Russia and, today, her unjust, politically motivated detention has been extended,” RFE/RL acting President Jeffrey Gedmin said in a statement after the Kazan court’s decision to grant the prosecution’s two-month extension request.

“As a human being and an American citizen, Alsu is entitled to certain rights and her rights must be upheld by the Russian government,” the journalist’s husband Pavel Butorin previously told CPJ.

Kurmasheva is the second U.S. journalist to be held by Russia, after Russian authorities arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges in March. On Tuesday, his pretrial detention was extended until January 30, 2024.

Russia held at least 19 journalists behind bars when CPJ conducted its 2022 prison census, which documented those imprisoned on December 1, 2022.