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Russia denies entry to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist

January 14, 2014 - 1:25 AM

MOSCOW - Russia has denied a visa to a journalist for the U.S-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, saying his presence in the country is "undesirable."

RFE/RL President Kevin Klose said in a statement issued Monday that barring David Satter from entering Russia represented a "fundamental violation of the right of free speech." Klose said the U.S. Embassy in Moscow has lodged a diplomatic protest with the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Satter, a veteran foreign correspondent, began working with RFE/RL in Moscow in September. He said he learned about the ban last month while trying to get a new Russian visa. Klose said a diplomat at the Russian Embassy in Ukraine read him a statement on Christmas Day, saying that Russian "competent organs" consider his presence in the country "undesirable."

On Tuesday, a Moscow court issued a statement saying that it ruled on Nov. 29 to bar Satter from entry on request of the Federal Migration Service over violation of visa rules. The court spokeswoman and the officials at the Federal Migration Service wouldn't spell out those violations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment by The Associated Press.

The denial of entry to Satter follows years of his critical reporting about Russia. Satter first worked in Moscow in 1976 as a correspondent of the British newspaper Financial Times, and has written extensively about the Soviet Union and Russia since then.

He has authored several books about Russia, including "Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State." An abridged Russian-language version was published recently in Moscow. The book focused on the alleged role of Russian security agencies in apartment building explosions in 1999 that triggered the second war in Chechnya.

"They know me very, very well," Satter told the AP from London. "I have been writing about Russia, writing about the Soviet Union almost for four decades. To say that I'm not allowed on the territory of the Russian Federation at the request of the security services — this I haven't seen applied to a journalist in my entire career of writing about Russia."

The move against Satter appears to reflect increasing Kremlin nervousness about critical reporting. The expulsion of Western reporters was common during the Cold War times, and the Kremlin revived the practice recently. In 2011, Russia denied entry to Luke Harding, a Moscow correspondent for the London-based Guardian. In 2012, French freelance journalist Anne Nivat had her business visa cancelled after she tried to gather information about opposition groups in the provinces.

News from © The Associated Press, 2014
The Associated Press

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