Russian-American journalist Alsou Kurmasheva was detained in the city of Kazan on Wednesday, accused of refusing to register as a “foreign agent,” according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). The United States has criticized the arrest, considering it a new case of “harassment” by Russia towards American citizens. The State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, stated that the US has not yet been officially notified of the arrest, but they have been following the case since Kurmasheva’s passport was confiscated in May, preventing her from leaving the country.
Kurmasheva, who works as an editor for RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir service in Prague, is a dual citizen. The Russian government has previously denied consular permits to dual nationals. The journalist could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the crime she is being accused of.
This incident comes as the second American journalist detained by Russia in recent months. Evan Gershkovich, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has been held since March on charges of espionage. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed their concern over the situation, stating that Kurmasheva’s arrest is further evidence of Russia’s crackdown on independent reporting.
RFE/RL announced the cessation of its activities in Russia following the outbreak of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A Moscow court declared the radio corporation bankrupt in March due to its failure to comply with the foreign agents law and pay large fines. The sanctions imposed by the Russian Justice Department totaled over one billion rubles.
On October 10, another American journalist detained by Russia, Evan Gershkovich, had his appeal for release rejected by a Moscow court. The journalist has been held in detention since March without publicly presented evidence of the accusations against him.
The arrest of Kurmasheva and the continued detention of Gershkovich highlight the deteriorating press freedom situation in Russia and the ongoing crackdown on independent journalists. The US State Department has urged Russia to release Kurmasheva and drop all charges against her. The CPJ also called for her immediate release, stating that journalism is not a crime.