Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty editor Alsu Kurmasheva pose for a photo during a work break at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, March 6, 2013.
Claire Bigg | Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty | AP
Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual Russian-American reporter with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), was detained in the southwest Russian city of Kazan on Wednesday while awaiting the return of her passports, her employer said in a statement released on Thursday.
RFE/RL said Kurmasheva, who is based in Prague, has been charged with failure to register as a foreign agent, a designation Russia requires of any organizations or individuals that it perceives as receiving foreign funding. It has been used to target journalists and people who speak out against the Kremlin.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, said RFE/RL, which is a U.S. government-funded media company. Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March and faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.
Kurmasheva has been working with the company’s Tatar-Bashkir Service, RFE/RL said. She traveled to Russia for “a family emergency” in May, according to RFE/RL, and was temporarily detained while waiting for her return flight on June 2 at Kazan airport, where she had her U.S. and Russian passports confiscated and was not able to leave Russia since then.
Kurmasheva was waiting for her passports to be returned when the new charge was announced on Wednesday, RFE/RL said. It has called for her immediate release.
Russian news outlet Tatar-Inform said Russian authorities accused Kurmasheva of “conducting a targeted collection of military information about Russian activities via the Internet in order to transmit information to foreign sources.” NBC News could not verify this claim.
There was no immediate reaction from the White House to Kurmasheva’s detention.
NBC News has reached out to Russia’s foreign ministry and the U.S. embassy in Moscow for comment.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said in a separate statement it was “deeply concerned” about Kurmasheva’s detention, calling charges against her “spurious,” and also called on Russian authorities to release her immediately.
Her detention follows that of Gershkovich, who is still awaiting trial after having multiple appeals declined. Gershkovich and his employer deny all charges against him and is considered “wrongfully detained” by the U.S. government.
Since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, new draconian legislation has made reporting in the country dangerous for both Russian and foreign journalists, causing many news organizations to disband and journalists to flee the country.