U.S. journalist and longtime foreign correspondent David Satter has been banned from entering Russia, with the nation calling his presence in the country "undesirable," according to the Associated Press.
Satter, who has been working for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, criticized Russia and President Vladimir Putin for hosting the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Satter slammed the International Olympic Committee in a CNN commentary, writing that the committee's decision to award the sporting event to Russia shows "irresponsibility."
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Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is funded by Congress and supports human rights, democracy and other U.S. priorities. Satter began working for the organization in September.
The Russian Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press that Satter did not apply for an extension of his visa within the prescribed time. Satter, who first started reporting on Russian soil when it was still part of the Soviet Union in 1976, claims that the ministry failed to give him a letter of support before the deadline, causing the migration agency to declare him in violation of visa rules.
Satter tried to obtain a new visa in the Ukraine on Dec. 4, but on Christmas Day, a Russian diplomat told Satter that Russian "competent organs" considered his return to the country "undesirable."
"The U.S. Embassy in Moscow has raised our concerns on this case and the treatment of journalists and media organizations in general with Russian authorities," Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman of the U.S. State Department, told the Associated Press. "As we've said many times before, hindering the free flow of information undermines the kind of open environment for free debate and discussion that supports innovation and dynamisms."
The Washington Post reported Tuesday
that Putin has been trying to improve the nation's international image in the weeks leading up to the Olympic Games. He freed oil tycoon and political rival Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who had sat in a Russian prison for 10 years, and two members of the music group Pussy Riot.
"Maybe they are doing this to see if they can get away with it," Robert Herman, vice president for regional programs at Freedom House, a Washington organization that promotes democracy, told the Post. He said he was surprised by Satter's ban. "I know Putin has been on a charm offensive."
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