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Russia Detains Radio Free Europe Journalist

Authorities in Russia’s Kazan on Wednesday arrested Alsu Kurmasheva, a Prague-based editor and Russian-American citizen with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), a media outlet funded by the U.S. Congress.

Kurmasheva has been charged with failure to register as a foreign agent, and faces up to five years in prison, her employer said in a statement.

“Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children,” RFE/RL’s acting President Jeffrey Gedmin said. “She needs to be released so she can return to her family immediately.”

Under President Vladimir Putin, Russian authorities have increasingly cracked down on dissent and restricted press freedoms — a trend that accelerated with Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Kurmasheva, whose reporting focused on ethnic minorities in the southwestern regions of Tatarstan (the capital of which is Kazan) and Bashkortostan, is the second U.S. citizen arrested in Russia since the start of the year, as the authorities increasingly target foreign media in the country.

Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, was arrested by Russian security services in March on suspicion of spying for the U.S, and remains in Russian detention.

A few months later, POLITICO Europe’s reporter Eva Hartog was expelled from Russia after a decade reporting in the country, after the authorities decided not to renew her visa; while Anna-Lena Laurén, the Russian correspondent for Swedish outlet Dagens Nyheter and for Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, was also kicked out the same week.

In 2012, Putin signed off on a law tightening controls on civil rights groups funded from abroad. The law was later extended to include media organisations, forcing journalists working in the country to register as “foreign agents” and file burdensome paperwork.