‘Undesirable’ U.S. journalist banned from Russia

Time | Radio Free Europe | The Guardian | BuzzFeed

“I have been expelled from Russia and declared persona non grata,” David Satter wrote on his website Tuesday. The journalist and Russia scholar was banned from the country, Maya Rhodan wrote in Time Monday, “in what is reportedly the first such ousting since the U.S.S.R. disbanded in 1991.”

According to a story Tuesday from Radio Free Europe, Satter had been working with RFE as an advisor since September of 2013, and in December, Satter was told his visa would be renewed.

But Satter says he was told later by a Russian Embassy official in the Ukrainian capital that his presence in Russia was considered “undesirable” and his visa request had been rejected.

The Guardian has a video, here, with Satter explaining how things happened.

“It was typical, during the Soviet period, to accuse foreign correspondents of being spies,” Satter said in the video. “But to make a direct accusation of that kind against a journalist in post-Soviet Russia is, in fact, extremely rare.”

Moscow’s City Center in January, 2012. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)


The Guardian’s Luke Harding wrote about the expulsion on Monday.

The US ambassador in Moscow, Michael McFaul, raised Satter’s case with Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Sergei Rybakov, on the eve of the refusal. Following Satter’s expulsion, the embassy issued a diplomatic protest and asked for an explanation. The Russian authorities declined to give one.

On Tuesday Russia’s foreign ministry accused Satter of infringing migration rules. In a statement, the ministry said the journalist had waited five days before converting his initial entry visa into a multi-entry visa – “a flagrant violation”. He was now barred from the country for five years, it said.

BuzzFeed’s Max Seddon also wrote about Satter on Monday.

Satter, who says he was informally placed on a Soviet visa blacklist during the 1980s and then readmitted during perestroika, took up a formal advisory position at Radio Free Europe’s troubled Moscow bureau in September and moved to Moscow full-time. Satter intended to refocus the bureau around “investigative journalism that focused on historical events” in order to “try to understand the sources of Russia’s problems,” he told BuzzFeed.

“Russia is a country that’s buried its history. It did it during the Soviet period and it’s done that in the post-Soviet period,” he said. “Only by facing the truth about the past can Russia create the basis for a better future.”

On Friday, ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Human Rights Watch issued a reporters’ guide for covering Sochi, which Poynter wrote about Monday. Included in a list of issues was the harassment of journalists covering the preparation of the games.

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