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Russia extends detention of Russian-American journalist Alsou Kurmasheva

The provisional detention of the Russian-American journalist Alsou Kurmasheva has been extended by 72 hours after the journalist from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), dependent on the US Congress, appeared before a Moscow court this Friday. Kurmasheva's lawyer, Edgar Matevosyan, told Reuters that Kurmasheva pleads not guilty. She is the second American journalist to be arrested and charged in Russia since the start of the war in Ukraine, which has plunged relations between Moscow and Washington to their lowest level in more than 60 years.

After the journalist Wall Street JournalEvan Gershkovich, was arrested in March on charges of espionage, almost all other American journalists have left Russia. Washington has repeatedly urged other Americans to leave. "This appears to be another case of the Russian government harassing American citizens," State Department spokesman Matt Miller told reporters Thursday.

Kremlin spokesman Dimitri Peskov denied this this Friday. "There is absolutely no campaign in Russia to persecute American citizens," he said. "There are American citizens who break the law and legal action is taken against them. There is no other campaign and we consider it inappropriate to talk about there being one."

Peskov did not comment on the nature of the case against Kurmasheva and said the Kremlin was not following it. That contrasts with his reaction after Gershkovich's arrest, when Peskov told reporters, without providing evidence, that the journalist had been "caught red-handed" while trying to obtain military secrets.

No trial date has been set for either Gershkovich or Kurmasheva.
Kurmasheva, who holds American and Russian passports, entered Russia on May 20 to deal with a family emergency, RFE/RL said. While she was waiting for her return flight on June 2, she was detained and her passports were confiscated. According to court documents, Kurmasheva was fined 10,000 rubles ($103) on October 11 for failing to register her US passport with Russian authorities. A week later she was charged with failing to register as a foreign agent, a crime that carries up to five years in prison.

"We are concerned about the decision to prolong Alsou's detention," said RFE/RL interim president Jeffrey Gedmin. "Journalism is not a crime. She must be handed over to her family immediately." RFE/RL has called for Kurmasheva's immediate release, calling her a "highly respected colleague, devoted wife and devoted mother of two children."

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