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Jailed US journalist spends 100th day in pre-trial detention in Russia

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk January 26, 2024 10:45 AM 2 min read
Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual-Russian/American citizen and journalist for RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir service detained in Russia as of Oct. 19, 2023. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
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Alsu Kurmasheva, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) journalist with dual U.S. and Russian citizenship, spent her 100th day in pre-trial detention in Russia on Jan. 25, and has still not received the official U.S. State Department designation of being "wrongfully detained."

According to RFE/RL, Kurmasheva lived in Prague with her family and traveled to Russia in May 2023 for a family emergency. When she tried to leave Russia the following month, authorities confiscated both her Russian and American passports, supposedly on the premise that she had not registered her U.S. passport.

RFE/RL confirmed that she had been charged with violating the law on failing to declare herself a foreign agent on Oct. 19 while waiting for her passports to be returned.

Two months later, she was also charged with spreading disinformation about the Russian military, commonly used by the Russian government to crack down on perceived opponents of the full-scale war on Ukraine.

Kurmasheva has been held in pre-trial detention since then, which has been extended on several occasions.

Despite repeated requests from RFE/RL, the U.S. State Department has not yet officially designated Kurmasheva as "wrongfully detained," as it has done with Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, both of whom are U.S. citizens currently held in Russian jails.

“We hope the U.S. State Department will quickly designate Alsu as ‘wrongfully detained,'" said acting RFE/RL President Stephen Capus.

"Even one day unjustly behind bars is a tragedy, but a U.S. citizen wrongfully held in a Russian prison for 100 days is outrageous."

U.S. officials have repeatedly condemned Kurmasheva's detention, but it is unclear why she has not yet received the official designation.

"I have no updates to offer on any specific designation, but we have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas,” said U.S. State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel in a press conference on Jan. 24.

“We remain incredibly concerned about the extension of her pretrial detention,” he added.

In a recent letter RFE/RL reported on earlier in January, Kurmasheva wrote that it often takes weeks for her to receive foreign correspondence.

"To be honest, it’s all becoming slowly but surely less bearable," she wrote.

US Ambassador to Russia visits jailed reporter Evan Gershkovich
The United States Embassy in Moscow said on Dec. 15 that Ambassador Lynne Tracy visited Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter currently detained in Russia on espionage charges he denies.
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