Court orders a detained Russia-US journalist to remain in custody for two more months

MOSCOW (AP) — A court in Russia on Monday ordered a detained Russian-American journalist to be held in jail for two more months pending investigation and trial, in a further step in the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent and free speech.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service, was taken into custody on Oct. 18 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information about the Russian military. Later, she was also charged with spreading “false information” about the Russian military.

A court in Tatarstan Monday ordered her to remain behind bars at least until June 5.

Kurmasheva, who holds U.S. and Russian citizenship and lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to RFE/RL.

She told reporters in the courtroom on Monday that she wasn’t doing “very well physically” and that some of her medical conditions have flared up in detention. “Living conditions are very bad, I have no way of taking care of my health,” she said, adding that medical assistance in the detention center was “minimal.”

Russian authorities have intensified a crackdown on Kremlin critics and independent journalists after President Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine in February 2022, using legislation that effectively criminalized any public expression about the conflict that deviates from the Kremlin line.

Kurmasheva was the second U.S. journalist detained in Russia last year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. Gershkovich and his employer have rejected the charges, and the U.S. authorities designated him wrongfully detained. He has spent a year in custody.

Kurmasheva was initially stopped on June 2 at Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia the previous month to visit her ailing elderly mother. Officials confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was arrested on new charges in October. RFE/RL has called for her release.

RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent, but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.

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