'A cold cell for being a journalist': Husband of US-Russian national Alsu Kurmasheva calls for her release

© Pavel Butorin courtesy RFE/RL

Alsu Kurmasheva is a dual US-Russian citizen and journalist who has been detained by Russia since October 18, charged with failing to register as a “foreign agent” despite having travelled to Russia for a family emergency. She faces up to five years in prison if convicted. Her husband has called for the State Department to designate her as "wrongfully detained". "She is a US citizen and has the same rights as any US citizen,” he says.

Alsu Kurmasheva’s arrest is the most egregious instance to date of the abusive use of Russia’s foreign agents’ legislation against independent press,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in an October statement on her case.

Russia’s expanded law on foreign agents, which now vaguely defines them as anyone “under foreign influence”, has come under fire from human rights groups and media organisations since it entered into force on December 1, 2022. The law’s previous iteration required prosecutors to prove a “foreign agent” had received financial or other material assistance from abroad; the new measures give authorities much greater latitude.

“At that point she wasn’t a suspect, but they took both passports and her phone," said her husband, Pavel Butorin. "It wasn’t until a couple of days later that she was charged with not registering her US passport,” which is now a criminal offense in Russia.

Nevertheless, they are looking to the future.

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