Russia’s Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov emphasized on Friday that Russia is not engaged in any crackdown on American citizens on its soil. Peskov clarified that Russia is committed to implementing its national laws, and when US citizens break the law, the country’s authorities take legal measures against them. Peskov’s comments were made in relation to the case of Alsu Kurmasheva, a dual Russian/American citizen who works for the US state-run media outlet Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Kurmasheva recently faced trial in Kazan, central Russia, for failing to register as a foreign agent. The local news agency Tatar Inform claimed that Kurmasheva was deliberately gathering military data on Russia’s activities for transfer abroad. Peskov addressed this particular case, stating that the Kremlin was not following it and was unaware of the specific details.
Russian officials argue that Kurmasheva violated local law by not providing the necessary documents to be listed as a foreign agent. Under this charge, she could face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 300,000 rubles ($3,000). Additionally, Tatar Inform reported that Kurmasheva is believed to have obtained data about local university professors allegedly involved in the Ukraine conflict and used this information to compile alternative analytical materials for foreign institutions to discredit Russia.
Russia’s foreign agent law, adopted in 2012, is similar to the US Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) of 1938. The law allows for identifying individuals and organizations involved in political activities and receiving foreign funding. Designated individuals and organizations are subject to additional audits.
RFE/RL is well-known for its role in American propaganda efforts during the Cold War in the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies. The outlet, which is funded by the US Congress, has a mandate to project Washington’s perspective worldwide. In 2020, it was labeled as a foreign agent in Russia and blocked in the country for allegedly spreading fake news about hostilities in Ukraine.
It is important to note that while Peskov stated that Russia is not persecuting US citizens, there have been cases in the past where American citizens have faced legal measures in Russia. One notable case was that of Paul Whelan, a former US Marine, who was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges in 2019.
However, the Kremlin’s position remains consistent, emphasizing that its actions are based on the implementation of national laws rather than a targeted crackdown on American citizens. As the case of Alsu Kurmasheva unfolds, it will be interesting to see how it impacts the already complex relationship between Russia and the United States.