RFE/RL journalist with dual U.S.-Russian citizenship arrested in Kazan
Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Tatar-Bashkir Service, was arrested in Kazan on Thursday, according to the agency.
Kurmasheva has dual citizenship in the U.S. and Russia and lives in Prague with her husband and children. In May 2023, she traveled to Russia for a family emergency, according to RFE/RL. On June 2, she was detained at the Kazan airport while trying to leave the country. The authorities confiscated both her Russian and American passports before issuing her a fine for not notifying the Russian government of her dual citizenship.
After spending the next several months in Russia while waiting for her passports to be returned, Kurmasheva was arrested on October 18 and charged with failing to comply with the requirements of “foreign agent” legislation.
Journalist Dmitry Kolezev reported on Telegram that the legislation in question is Part 3 of Article 330.1 of the Russian Criminal Code, which holds that anyone gathering information about Russia’s “military-technical activities,” which investigators say Kurmasheva was doing, is required to voluntarily register as a “foreign agent.” Kurmasheva could face up to five years in prison if convicted.
“I used to write a lot about this law, calling it ‘State Treason Lite.’ The FSB issued an order approving a very broad list of information, right up to the names of soldiers or the numbers of units, whose collection fell under this law,” Kolezev wrote. “And since today you can become a ‘foreign agent’ simply by ‘falling under foreign influence,’ practically anyone who’s interested in this information can be declared a ‘foreign agent’ and accused of not registering with the authorities in advance. This is a law that can be used to convict absolutely anyone.”
According to the news site Tatar Inform, investigators believe Kurmasheva acquired information about mobilized professors from a university in Tatarstan and was using the information to prepare “alternative analytical materials” for “international institutions” and for “information campaigns to discredit Russia.”
RFE/RL has demanded Kurmasheva’s immediate release. “Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children. She needs to be released so she can return to her family immediately,” said acting President Jeffrey Gedmin.
The organization noted that Kurmasheva has been reporting for many years on issues facing ethnic minorities in Tatarstan and Bashkortosta, as well as writing about civil initiatives aimed at protecting and preserving Tatar language and culture.