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Russia Bars Entry to American Journalist

In a move redolent of the Cold War, Russia has barred entry to an American journalist who had been living and working in Moscow.

David Satter, a veteran foreign correspondent working for U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), says he was notified in December that his request for a Russian visa had been approved.

However, he says he was later told by an official at the Russian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine, where he had gone to renew his visa, that "the competent organs" in Russia had decided his presence in the country was "undesirable" and that he would be barred from entry.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in statement Tuesday that Satter was banned from entering the country for five years.

The ministry said Satter had entered Russia last November 21 but failed to get a multi-entry visa immediately, as Russian law requires. According to the ministry, he applied for a multi-entry visa on November 26, but his application was denied because he had been present in Russia "illegally" from November 22 to November 26.

On November 29, a Moscow court ordered that Satter be fined and deported, the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.

Satter, whose writing is highly critical of what he sees as the Russian government's authoritarianism and corruption, told VOA's Russian service Tuesday in an interview via Skype from London that he thought the actions against him were politically motivated and evidence that "the Russian regime is losing its confidence."

"I believe that to a certain extent they understand that the ground under their feet is not a secure as it once was, and they don't want journalists in Moscow who are capable of understanding what's happening in the country."

RFE/RL President Kevin Klose said on January 13 that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow had been informed about the action against Satter and lodged a formal diplomatic protest.

Satter, who worked as the Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times newspaper in the late 1970s and early 1980s, wrote a book titled "Darkness at Dawn; The Rise of the Russian Criminal State," which was published in 2003.

In it, he argued there was "overwhelming" evidence that the Federal Security Service, or FSB, Russia's main domestic security agency, was behind a series of bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and other cities in 1999, which killed hundreds of people.

Those blasts, which Russian officials, including then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, blamed on Chechen terrorists, were followed by post-Soviet Russia's second large-scale military intervention in Chechnya.

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