EU Lawmaker Says Russia Denied Her Entry as ‘Undesirable’Jonathan Stearns
A leading European Union lawmaker said Russian authorities denied her entry into the country when she arrived from Brussels to observe an espionage trial, calling the treatment unprecedented.
Rebecca Harms, co-leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, said she was kept waiting for three hours at Moscow airport yesterday before being told that she was an “undesirable” person and that her entry would be a “criminal act.” The holder of a German diplomatic passport, Harms said she was asked to take the next plane back to Brussels.
“It was a little bit of a charade,” Harms told reporters today in Brussels. “It very much reminded me of Soviet Union times.”
EU-Russia relations have been frayed by the Kremlin’s encroachment in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels have been battling Ukrainian forces for months. The standoff, which has killed more than 3,500 people, has led the EU to impose sanctions on companies and people in Russia and the Russian government to retaliate with a ban on imports of farm goods from the 28-nation bloc.
Harms said that she was targeted probably because she has been a frequent traveler to the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and has supported the EU’s sanctions against Russia. Harms also said she is on a Russian list of unidentified EU politicians whom Russia plans to sanction in such ways.
“According to our information, this is the first time that a member of the European Parliament has been prevented from entering Russia,” the Green group in the EU assembly said in an e-mailed statement today.
Harms said she had planned to attend the trial on spying charges of a Ukrainian pilot named Nadiya Savchenko and had made her visit known in advance.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement today that “we condemn” Russia’s refusal to let Harms enter the country and that Savchenko’s detention “remains a matter of concern.”
Harms said the commission and the German embassy in Moscow registered protests with Russian officials. EU Parliament President Martin Schulz, who is German, said he would send a letter to the Russian embassy in Brussels over “this grave diplomatic incident.”