Alsu Kurmasheva, a journalist with Idel.Realii, the Tatarstan and Bashkortostan service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was detained in Kazan on Wednesday by Russian law enforcement, Idel.Realii reported on Thursday.
Kurmasheva was reportedly detained for refusing to provide documents for her inclusion on the register of so-called foreign agents, a legal status given by the Russian government to its critics that places various restrictions on their activities.
While Idel.Realii has been a “foreign agent” since 2017, Kurmasheva has not been given the status herself and Idel.Realii said it was unaware of what their journalist stands accused of.
Kurmasheva has both Russian and US citizenship and is a resident of Czechia. In late May, she returned to Russia for a family emergency and was detained on 2 June just as she was about to board her flight back to Prague. She had both of her passports confiscated and was fined for failing to report her US citizenship to the Russian authorities.
Kurmasheva was awaiting the return of her passports when she was detained on Wednesday.
The detained Kurmasheva. Screenshot: Tatar Inform
Local state-owned news outlet GTRK Tatarstan reported on Friday that Kurmasheva is the wife of Pavel Butorin, the editor-in-chief at Current Time TV, a Czech-based Russian-language TV channel created by RFE/RL.
The same news outlet also reported that Kurmasheva “collected information on Russia’s military activities and handed it over to foreign sources” and gave away copies of her book “in private in the White House”, including one copy for US President Joe Biden.
Acting RFE/RL president Jeffrey Gedmin issued a statement saying that Kurmasheva should be released with immediate effect: “Alsu is a highly respected colleague, devoted wife, and dedicated mother to two children.”
RFE/RL called Kurmasheva “an accomplished journalist who has long covered ethnic minority communities in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan in the Volga-Ural region of Russia”.