Russia Extends Detention of U.S. Journalist Alsu Kurmasheva

A Russian court on Friday extended the detention of an editor working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a broadcaster funded by the American government, who was arrested in October on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent.

A district court in Kazan, about 500 miles east of Moscow, ordered the editor, Alsu Kurmasheva, who holds both Russian and United States citizenship, to remain in custody until Feb. 5 as she awaits trial, Russian news agencies reported. Rim Sabirov, Ms. Kurmasheva’s lawyer, said he would appeal the ruling, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.

Ms. Kurmasheva is the second journalist holding American citizenship to be detained by Russia this year. In March, Russian special services arrested Evan Gershkovich, a Russia correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, on espionage charges, which he and The Journal have denied. He remains in a high-security prison in Moscow awaiting trial.

The arrests of the two journalists and other prior detentions of Americans in Russia have raised suspicions that the Kremlin now views U.S. citizens on its soil as assets who can be traded for high-value Russians held in custody in the West.

Last December, the American basketball star Brittney Griner was released after nearly 10 months of captivity in Russia on drug charges in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer. A potential swap for Mr. Gershkovich reportedly has also been discussed.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Ms. Kurmasheva’s relatives denounced her detention, calling for her immediate release. On Thursday, Memorial, a Russian rights group, designated Ms. Kurmasheva as a political prisoner.

If convicted, Ms. Kurmasheva could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Under Russian law, individuals and organizations receiving funding from abroad and engaged in loosely defined political activity must register as foreign agents or face prosecution. The 2012 law has been criticized by rights groups as a political tool to suppress dissent and stigmatize perceived critics of the Kremlin.

Speaking about the decision to extend her detention, Ms. Kurmasheva’s husband, Pavel Butorin, said that she was not a criminal.

“The ‘foreign agent’ charges against her are absurd and clearly politically motivated,” Mr. Butorin said in a post on the social network X. “She shouldn’t be in jail.”

Mr. Butorin called on the U.S. government to designate Ms. Kurmasheva as “wrongfully detained,” a status that would obligate American government agencies to work intensely to secure her release.

Before her arrest in Russia, Ms. Kurmasheva had been living in Prague with her husband and two children, the radio network said. She went to Kazan, her hometown, in May to visit her ailing mother, Mr. Butorin told the Committee to Protect Journalists in an interview.

American diplomats have been seeking consular access to Ms. Kurmasheva. Speaking about the issue last week, Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei A. Ryabkov, told the state news agency Tass that Ms. Kurmasheva’s situation was different from other Americans in Russian custody because she held Russian citizenship.

The decision to extend Ms. Kurmasheva’s detention came as Aleksei A. Navalny, the imprisoned Russian opposition leader, said that investigators had informed him of new charges against him.

Mr. Navalny, who is serving a lengthy term in a Russian penal colony, said in a post on X on Friday that he had received a letter notifying him that he had been charged under the second part of Article 214 of the Russian criminal law, which covers vandalism committed in a group of people.

“I have no idea what Article 214 is, and there’s nowhere to look. You’ll know before I do,” Mr. Navalny said.

“They really initiate a new criminal case against me every three months,” he said. “Rarely an inmate, confined to a solitary cell for over a year, has such a vibrant social and political existence.”