Russia bars leading EU lawmaker critical to Moscow from entering country to observe a trial
German MEP Rebecca Harms, a frequent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Friday that border guards kept her for three hours at Moscow airport and told her she had been declared persona non grata.
The 28-nation EU condemned Russia's decision and accused Moscow of a "regrettable" lack of transparency in blacklisting people.
EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the decision blocked Harms from participating as an observer in the espionage trial of a Ukrainian pilot even though Harms "checked with the Russian authorities before traveling."
Harms, a co-president of Parliament's pro-environment Greens caucus, took the next plane back to Brussels on Thursday after being refused entry.
“I was told to take the next airplane back and any entry into Russia would be considered a criminal act,” Rebecca Harms said on her Facebook page, after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.Russian culture news website said the German lawmaker, who heads the Green faction in the European Parliament, was declared “persona non grata.”
No official explanation was offered for the incident as of Thursday.
Harms was traveling to Moscow to attend a court hearing in the case of Nadezhda Savchenko — a Ukrainian army pilot in Russian custody for her supposed involvement in the death of two Russian journalists during the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, a charge she has denied.
Western countries, including the EU, have imposed sanctions against Russia, including blacklisting dozens of Russian businessmen and officials, for backing pro-Moscow separatists in their five-month war against the Ukrainian governmental army.
Russia has imposed mirror sanctions against a handful of U.S. and Canadian officials, banning them from entering the country, and has introduced a year-long ban on Western food imports.
A Russian Foreign Ministry official said Thursday that sanctions against EU officials were also on the cards, but gave no details.