Detention of U.S. Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva in Russia Extended

The detention of Russo-American journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, employed by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), has been extended by a Russian court until June 5.

Trapped in Russia since May 2023 after a family visit, she was arrested on October 18 2023 for not registering as a “foreign agent”, she is accused of distributing “false information” about the Russian military. Kurmasheva faces up to 15 years in prison, a situation RFE/RL President Stephen Capus decries as a politicized attack on journalistic freedom. Kurmasheva is the first journalist criminally charged under Russia’s “foreign agent” laws.

This incident parallels the case of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained on espionage charges since March 2023, and whose pre-trial detention has also been repeatedly extended, most recently until June 30 2024. Gershkovich was the first American journalist arrested in Russia since the Cold War.

The United States accused the Kremlin of arresting American citizens under false pretenses to use them as bargaining chips in exchanges for Russians imprisoned abroad. President Vladimir Putin has discussed the idea of an exchange involving Gershkovich and Vadim Krasikov, who is serving a life sentence in Germany for the murder of a Chechen dissident in Berlin in 2019.