Alsu Kurmasheva is a journalist with RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service. On October 18, authorities in Kazan, Russia detained Kurmasheva and charged her with failure to self-register as a “foreign agent.” The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. She has currently been remanded to pre-trial detention in Kazan until December 5.
Responding to news of Kurmasheva’s detention on October 18, RFE/RL acting President Dr. Jeffrey Gedmin said: “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.”
USAGM CEO Amanda Bennett echoed Gedmin’s statement and condemned the Russian government’s actions: “Journalism is not a crime. Alsu Kurmasheva is a distinguished journalist and a beloved member of her community. Her detention is categorically unjust and she should be released immediately.”
Kurmasheva is an accomplished journalist who lives in Prague, and is a dual citizen of Russia and the U.S. She traveled to Kazan for a family emergency in May, and was temporarily detained while awaiting her return flight weeks later, when authorities confiscated both her U.S. and Russian passports, preventing her from leaving the country. She was subsequently fined for failure to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities and detained again on October 18 while awaiting the return of her passports.
Russia has long used foreign agent laws to punish perceived government critics it deems are “under foreign influence,” including civil society groups, media outlets, independent journalists, and activists. The Committee to Protect Journalists recently stated “Alsu Kurmasheva’s arrest is the most egregious instance to date of the abusive use of Russia’s foreign agents’ legislation against the independent press.”
Kurmasheva’s reporting has shed light on the cultural and human rights challenges faced by ethnic minority communities, particularly the Tatars, under increasing Russian pressure. For example, Kurmasheva led the launch of RFE/RL’s Tatar language educational project, Eyde!Online, in response to the Russian government’s crackdown on minority languages, in 2018.
Kurmasheva has reported extensively on gender issues and led news projects on domestic violence and women’s human rights. Her 2022 initiative, “Not Just A Woman’s Business,” mapped domestic violence across Russia, highlighting victims’ testimonies and celebrating women’s rights activists.
For more information, please visit the Free Alsu Kurmasheva page on RFE/RL’s website (https://pressroom.rferl.org/free-alsu-kurmasheva).