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Court extends detention of Russian-American journalist, her employer says

A Russian court on Monday ordered a Russian-American journalist who was detained last week on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent to remain in custody until early December, her employer reported.

Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir service, appeared in a closed session in a court in the city of Kazan, the capital of the Tatarstan republic.

The radio service said the court ordered her to be held until Dec. 5, rejecting her lawyer's request for preventive measures other than incarceration.

She is the second U.S. journalist detained in Russia this year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. Gershkovich remains in custody.

The state-run news website Tatar-Inform said Kurmasheva faces charges of failing to register as a "foreign agent" and was collecting information on Russian military activities. Conviction would carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Kurmasheva, who lives in Prague, was stopped June 2 at Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia for a family emergency May 20, according to RFE/RL.

Airport officials confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and she was fined for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when the new charge was filed Wednesday, RFE/RL said.

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.

The Committee to Protect Journalists called the charges against Kurmasheva "spurious," saying her detention "is yet more proof that Russia is determined to stifle independent reporting."

Kurmasheva reported on ethnic minority communities in the Tatarstan and Bashkortostan republics in Russia, including projects to preserve the Tatar language and culture, her employer said.

Gershkovich and The Wall Street Journal deny the allegations against him, and the U.S. government has declared him to be wrongfully detained.

Russian authorities haven't detailed any evidence to support the charges. Court proceedings against him are closed because prosecutors say details of the case are classified.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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