US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva was arrested in Russia Wednesday for failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Kurmasheva, a reporter for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), holds dual citizenship in Russia and the United States.
According to a statement from RFE/RL, Kurmasheva traveled to Russia in May for a family emergency. When she tried to return to the US in June, she was temporarily detained at the Kazan airport. During her temporary detention, both her US and Russian passports were confiscated, rendering her unable to leave the country. She was then arrested and charged with a failure to register as a “foreign agent.” If found guilty, Kumasheva faces a penalty of up to five years incarceration.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement calling on Russian authorities to release Kumasheva immediately. The CPJ warned that Kumsheva’s arrest is part of a recent crackdown against independent journalism in Russia, especially related to the war in Ukraine. CPJ cited a colleague of Kurmasheva who stated, “Alsu was detained simply because she is an employee of Radio Liberty. In fact, now any independent journalist in Russia risks the same thing.” The CPJ went on to state:
In August 2022, police in Kazan searched the homes of seven RFE/RL journalists and contributors and interrogated them about the Tatar-Bashkir service’s work. In November 2022, a court in Kazan ordered the arrest in absentia Andrei Grigoriev, a reporter with Idel.Realii, a project of the Tatar-Bashkir service, on charges of justifying terrorism. The RFE/RL Tatar-Bashkir service regularly covers the war in Ukraine and Russian authorities’ crackdown on the country’s civil society. Kurmasheva has long covered ethnic minority communities in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in the Volga-Ural region of Russia…
Kumasheva’s arrest is the second time an American journalist has been detained within Russia this year. Only seven months ago, in March 2023, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on similar charges of espionage. Though Gershkovich was originally only charged with a two month detention, he is currently still in jail, and will remain there until trial.