We want her back:’ The husband of a US journalist detained in Russia appeals for her release

November 12, 2023 | by b1og.net


In a heart-wrenching appeal for her release, Pavel Butorin, the husband of detained US journalist Alsu Kurmacheva, pleaded for her return from a Russian prison where she has been held for almost a month. Kurmacheva, an editor for Radio Free Europe, funded by the US government, was charged with failing to self-register as a “foreign agent.” Butorin expressed his disbelief and sadness, stating that his wife should be celebrating their 21st anniversary with their children at home, not behind bars. He urged for her immediate release, highlighting the importance of her presence in their lives. The imprisonment of Kurmacheva marks the second US journalist detained in Russia this year, sparking concerns over press freedom and the safety of journalists in the country.

We want her back: The husband of a US journalist detained in Russia appeals for her release

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Background of the Case

In Russia, journalist Alsu Kurmasheva has been detained for nearly a month on charges of failing to self-register as a “foreign agent.” Kurmasheva, who works as an editor for Radio Free Europe, a media organization funded by the U.S. government, is facing a trial that could potentially sentence her to up to five years in prison. The charges against Kurmasheva have been deemed “spurious” by the Committee to Protect Journalists, highlighting the ongoing efforts by the Russian government to stifle independent reporting. Kurmasheva’s detainment is just one example of the increasing pressure on independent media and journalists in Russia.


Pavel Butorin’s Plea for Release

Pavel Butorin, the husband of Alsu Kurmasheva and director of the current time, TV, and digital platform of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, has been advocating for his wife’s release. He recently gave an interview in Prague, where he expressed his desire to have Alsu released as soon as possible. Butorin believes that his wife’s detainment is due to her profession as a journalist with Radio Free Europe and her American citizenship. He emphasized that Alsu did not travel to Russia as a journalist but rather as a devoted daughter visiting her ailing mother. Butorin is grateful for the support of the U.S. State Department and hopes that every available avenue will be used to ensure Alsu’s speedy release from Russian detention.

Family’s Struggle

The detainment of Alsu Kurmasheva has had a significant impact on her family. Butorin and Kurmasheva were about to celebrate their 21st anniversary together when she was arrested and imprisoned in Russia. Butorin expressed his disappointment that instead of celebrating this milestone at home with their children, Alsu was being held in a Russian prison. The separation from their young daughters has been especially challenging for the family, with the children missing their mother dearly.

Moscow’s Strategy

Some analysts speculate that Moscow may be using detained Americans as bargaining chips in response to heightened tensions with the United States. This strategy has been employed in the past, with at least two U.S. citizens arrested in Russia being exchanged for Russians jailed in the U.S. Despite the international attention surrounding Kurmasheva’s case, the Russian authorities have not provided information about her detention or granted consular access. Additionally, there are concerns about censorship of communication with Kurmasheva, as the notes being passed to her are reportedly being censored.

Efforts for Release

There is hope for U.S. government intervention in securing Alsu Kurmasheva’s release. Advocates are urging the U.S. government to designate her as a wrongfully detained person and to utilize every available means to ensure her speedy release. Butorin reassures Kurmasheva that she is not alone and that there are relentless efforts being made to secure her release. However, there have been challenges in obtaining consular access for Kurmasheva, further complicating the efforts for her release.

Impact on the Journalist Community

Kurmasheva’s detainment is not an isolated incident but rather part of a broader crackdown on independent reporting in Russia. The Russian authorities have implemented various measures to suppress independent media and journalists since the conflict with Ukraine in 2022. A law criminalizing the spread of “false information” about the Russian army has been used to target journalists critical of the government. The Committee to Protect Journalists and international organizations have expressed concerns over the deteriorating press freedom in Russia and the impact on independent reporting.

International Implications

The detainment of Alsu Kurmasheva has implications beyond her personal case. It is linked to the ongoing tensions between the United States and Russia. As the relations between the two countries continue to strain, the detainment of U.S. citizens becomes a sensitive issue. This incident could have potential repercussions for U.S.-Russia relations, further exacerbating the existing challenges. Analysts are closely examining Moscow’s motives and strategy in using detained Americans as part of their diplomatic approach.


Calls for Solidarity

Colleagues and friends of Alsu Kurmasheva have expressed their support and solidarity during this difficult time. They want her to know that they are standing by her and working tirelessly to secure her release. Butorin emphasizes the commitment of his family and the broader community to continue fighting for Kurmasheva’s freedom. The outpouring of support and reassurance from those who believe in her cause helps uplift Kurmasheva’s spirits while in detention.

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Legal Proceedings

The trial process for Kurmasheva’s case is yet to unfold fully. She is facing charges of failing to register as a “foreign agent,” a term that carries additional scrutiny and negative connotations in Russia. The possible sentence for Kurmasheva, if convicted, could be up to five years in prison. The defense strategy for her case will likely involve highlighting her non-journalistic purposes for visiting Russia and challenging the legitimacy of the charges against her.

Humanitarian Concerns

Conditions in the detention center where Alsu Kurmasheva is being held have raised humanitarian concerns. The lack of information and limited communication channels deprive her of essential support and contact with the outside world. Notes being censored further restrict her ability to freely express herself and obtain necessary information. Additionally, the physical and emotional well-being of Kurmasheva remains a concern, given the challenging circumstances she is currently facing.

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