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BBG Chairman Denied Entry Into Russia


FILE - Jeff Shell, BBG chairman and chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studios.
FILE - Jeff Shell, BBG chairman and chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, Universal Studios.

The chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other U.S. government broadcasters, was denied entry to Russia this week and detained for several hours at a Moscow airport.

BBG chairman Jeff Shell is also chairman of the NBC Universal media conglomerate. Russian officials said he has been placed on a "stop list of individuals denied entry into Russia for his role in steering anti-Russian propaganda," the Tass news agency reported.

Russian authorities pulled Shell out of a line of arriving travelers at the airport late Tuesday, although he had a valid Russian visa.

Shell said he was held in a locked room for several hours before authorities put him on a flight to Amsterdam. The BBG chairman told colleagues he was informed he was being denied entry to Russia permanently, and now is subject to a "lifetime ban."

"An armed guard came and got me at about 5 a.m. and walked me onto the plane and to my seat," Shell told reporters Wednesday morning when he arrived in Western Europe. "He gave my passport to the pilot and said not to give it back to me until I was on Dutch soil. It was quite embarrassing."

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Shell was barred from Russia because he is chief of a "propagandist" U.S. government agency.

It also said the ban was retaliation for U.S. travel sanctions against 70 Russians, including several high-ranking officials, over what Russia contends are "highly contrived pretexts" concerning Ukraine.

"Sanctions are always a doubled-edged sword. Whoever introduces them against Russia should be mindful of the imminence of counter-measures," a ministry statement said.

BBG officials have met in Moscow with U.S. Ambassador John Tefft.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. has raised its concerns, but does not know if Secretary of State John Kerry plans to bring it up during his upcoming talks in Moscow.

Ties between Russia and the United States have generally been cool over Russian backing for separatists in Ukraine, and Russian airstrikes on U.S.-backed opposition fighters in Syria.

Two Russian diplomats were expelled from the United States in June after a Russian policeman attacked an American diplomat outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow.