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Court orders a detained Russia-US journalist to remain in custody for two more months

MOSCOW — A court in Russia on Monday ordered that a detained Russian-American journalist be held in prison for another two months pending investigation and trial, a further step in the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression.

Alsu Kurmasheva, editor of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s US government-funded Tatar-Bashkir service, was taken into custody on October 18 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while gathering intelligence on the Russian military. She was later also accused of spreading “false information” about the Russian military.

A court in Tatarstan on Monday ordered her to remain behind bars until at least June 5.

Kurmasheva, who has U.S. and Russian citizenship and lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, according to RFE/RL.

She told reporters in court Monday that she was “not doing well physically” and that some of her medical conditions have flared up during detention. “Living conditions are very poor, I cannot take care of my health,” she said, adding that medical assistance at the detention center was “minimal.”

Russian authorities have intensified a crackdown on Kremlin critics and independent journalists after President Vladimir Putin deployed troops to Ukraine in February 2022, using legislation that effectively bans any public expression of the conflict that deviates from the line. Kremlin criminalizes.

Kurmasheva was the second American journalist arrested in Russia last year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested in March on espionage charges. Gershkovich and his employer denied the charges and U.S. authorities wrongfully detained him. He spent a year in pretrial detention.

Kurmasheva was initially stopped at Kazan International Airport on June 2 after traveling to Russia the month before to visit her ailing elderly mother. Officials confiscated her American and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her American passport. She was awaiting the return of her passports when she was arrested on new charges in October. RFE/RL has called for her release.

RFE/RL was ordered by Russian authorities to register as a foreign agent in 2017, but has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws at the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.