Tuesday, November 28, 2023
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‘We want her back,’ husband of US journalist detained in Russia appeals for her immediate release

Pavel Butorin, director of the current time, TV and digital platform of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and his wife Russian-American journalist Alsu Kurmacheva pose for a photo in Prague, Czech Republic on Wednesday Aug. 14, 2013. Kurmacheva, the editor with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Tatar-Bashkir service was detained on Oct 18, 2023 in Russia and is being held in a detention center, awaiting a trial that could sentence her to up to five years in prison. (Pavel Butorin via AP)
PRAGUE – This wasn’t how Pavel Butorin expected to celebrate his anniversary this week, with his wife of 21 years in a Russian prison and barely any communication available.
Russian-American journalist, Alsu Kurmasheva — who works as an editor for U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe — has been detained in Russia for almost a month and charged with failing to self-register as a “foreign agent.”
“Alsu should be celebrating this anniversary with me and our children at home, not in a Russian prison,” Butorin told The Associated Press in an interview in Prague on Friday. “We want her back. Alsu must be released as soon as possible,” he said, visibly shaken.
Kurmasheva was detained on Oct 18, becoming the second U.S. journalist detained in Russia this year, after Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was arrested on espionage charges in March. She is being held in a detention center, awaiting a trial that could sentence her to up to five years in prison.
Her ordeal began in May when she decided to travel to Russia’s Tatarstan to see her ailing, elderly mother for what was supposed to be a short trip. On June 2, she was about to board a return plane for home at Kazan International Airport when she was temporarily detained, both her passports and phone seized and fined for failing to register her U.S. passport with Russian authorities.
“But before Alsu was able to pay the fine that was eventually issued, she was charged with a much more serious offense, and that is failure to register as a foreign agent,” Butorin said.
The state-run news website Tatar-Inform said Kurmasheva faces charges of failing to register as a “foreign agent” and was collecting information on Russian military activities “in order to transmit information to foreign sources.”
Russia uses the legal term, which carries additional scrutiny and strong pejorative connotations, to label and punish critics of its official policies.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has called the charges against Kurmasheva “spurious,” saying her detention “is yet more proof that Russia is determined to stifle independent reporting.”
Butorin said his wife didn’t travel to Russia as a journalist and was doing no reporting work there.
“Alsu was well aware of the risks that were associated with a possible trip to Russia,” Butorin added. ”But she is a devoted daughter.”
He said he believed his wife was imprisoned



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