American researcher and author denied entry to Russia
“Hindering the free flow of information undermines the kind of open environment for free debate and discussion that supports innovation and dynamism,” said the US State Department's Marie Harf.
Satter, an expert on Russian and author of three books, had been living in Moscow, where he was working as an advisor to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. He was denied a visa when he travelled from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine, last month to renew an earlier visa that was due to expire.
He was told by a Russian embassy official on 25 December that his application for a new visa had been rejected on the grounds that his presence was ‘undesirable’.
Last week the Russian foreign ministry clarified this, explaining that the 66-year-old writer had been denied a multiple-entry visa because he had violated migration rules in Moscow by failing to report immediately to the Federal Migration Service.
It said he had waited five days before converting his initial entry visa into a multi-entry visa, dubbing that as “a flagrant violation” of migration rules.
The nuance may be lost on Satter, who has been unable to return to his Moscow flat and under Russian regulations is prevented from applying for a new visa for another five years.
Satter served as Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times from 1976-82 and is now a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute, a Washington DC think-tank.
He had been working to expand investigative journalism at the Moscow bureau of Radio Liberty. The station, one of the few sources of independent news in Russia, has recently been through a period of turmoil after many of its Russian staff were sacked.
It remains one of the few sources of independent news in Russia, where most media outlets are either directly under Kremlin control or owned by wealthy businessmen with close links to the government.
Satter says his position is that the ban should be “reversed immediately”.
Interviewed by the Guardian newspaper in London, he said that the manner of his visa refusal, which at the time was without the explanation since offered, suggested the security services regarded him as a risk.
Reading from a statement, the Russian embassy official in Kiev had told him: "The competent organs have decided that your presence on the territory of the Russian Federation is not desirable. You are banned from entering Russia."
That was, the writer and researcher said, a “formula used for spies”.
He added: “To apply it to a journalist is something I have not seen in nearly four decades of writing and reporting on Russia. It is indicative that they consider me, for whatever crazy reasons, to be a security threat.”
There are fears that other Western researchers whom the FSB deem hostile to Russia are also being refused visas, with rumours that some Western specialists on Russia have already suffered but, fearing they will never be able to return if they speak out, have kept quiet.
The Hudson Institute last week denounced Satter's expulsion and urged Washington to press for his re-admittance.
“David Satter is a valued colleague and friend who is one of America's leading authorities on contemporary Russia,” said Kenneth Weinstein, president of the institute.
On several occasions Nigerians who are scholars have been denied a visa, with frustration and disappointment. Let us learn from the American example.
Joel Babalolablab on the University World News Facebook page