Washington, D.C. — On October 18, authorities in Kazan, Russia, detained Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Tatar-Bashkir Service. Kurmasheva has been charged with failure to register as a foreign agent. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
“Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children,” said RFE/RL acting President Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin. “She needs to be released so she can return to her family immediately.” Kurmasheva is a dual U.S. and Russian citizen who lives in Prague, Czech Republic, with her husband and children.
Kurmasheva traveled to Russia for a family emergency on May 20. She was temporarily detained while waiting for her return flight on June 2. Authorities at Kazan airport confiscated Kurmasheva’s U.S. and Russian passports. She was subsequently fined for failure to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities. She was awaiting the return of her passports when the new charge was announced on October 18.
Kurmasheva is an accomplished journalist who has long covered ethnic minority communities in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in the Volga-Ural region of Russia. She has reported on initiatives to protect and preserve the Tatar language and culture from Russian authorities, who have exerted increased pressure on Tatars in recent years.
Since 2012, Russia has used foreign agent laws to punish perceived government critics who receive funding from abroad or are deemed to be “under foreign influence,” including civil society groups, media outlets, independent journalists, and activists.
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
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Contact Martins Zvaners
Deputy Director of Media and Public Affairs, Washington, DC