Russia: RSF alerts on the inhumane and degrading conditions of detention of the American-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, for the last six months

American-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva, who works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), has been held since 18 October 2023 by the Russian authorities in inhumane and degrading conditions. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reiterates its call for her immediate release and warns of her worrying state of health.

For the first time since her arrest six months ago, relatives of Alsu Kurmasheva, an American-Russian journalist working for the US media Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), have finally been able to hear her voice. On 1 April, her husband, Pavel Butorin, shared a video on the social network X, showing the journalist in a glassed-in courtroom in Kazan, a city more than 800 kilometres east of Moscow. Just before her detention was extended until 5 June, she was able to talk briefly about her living conditions in prison: a cramped cell barely heated despite the winter temperatures, with two beds and a shelf, and no access to hot water. Inhumane and degrading conditions of detention.

Since her arrest in Kazan on 18 October 2023, she has never been able to communicate with her husband, her two children aged 12 and 15, or her mother, who is elderly and ill. The Russian authorities have also repeatedly refused the journalist's requests for access to the American consulate, which is her right as an American citizen.

Concern about her health

In prison, Alsu Kurmasheva's health is gradually deteriorating. In the same video posted on X by her husband, she warns of her situation: "several diagnoses have worsened, I don't feel well physically". In a recent interview with RSF, her husband, who is worried about her health, describes her situation as a "nightmare".

“As Alsu Kurmasheva's health continues to worsen due to the deplorable conditions of the Russian prison system, her rights as a US citizen are constantly denied by the authorities. The refusal to grant her access to US consular assistance is a blatant violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR). RSF urges the US government to step up its efforts to get her released.

Jeanne Cavelier
Head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk

Russian pressure on foreign journalists

Alsu Kurmasheva had travelled to Russia in May 2023 for a family emergency. On 2 June, as she was preparing to leave the country, the Russian authorities confiscated her Russian and American passports, preventing her from leaving. She was arrested on 18 October 2023 for failing to declare herself a "foreign agent".

The Russian authorities no longer hesitate to target foreign journalists in the war they are waging against independent media. RSF has called on the US State Department to lose no time in formally designating her as “wrongfully detained” and to make every effort to get her freed. The other US journalist currently detained by the Russians, Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, was designated by the US State Department as “wrongfully detained” after his arrest on a spying charge in March 2023.

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