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American Journalist and Radio Liberty Adviser Denied Entry to Russia

David Satter -- author, researcher and expert on Russia -- was refused a new visa for "violating" Russian migration rules.

MOSCOW -- U.S. authorities have protested saying there were "disappointed" after an American journalist writer was denied a visa to visit Russia.

The U.S. State Department said the American embassy in Moscow had raised concerns about the case of David Satter, an author and advisor to a US Congress-funded radio station in Moscow, and the treatment of journalists and media organizations by authorities generally.

"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," State Department Marie Harf said.

Satter, an expert on Russian and author of three books who had been living in Moscow where he was working as an advisor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, was denied a visa when he traveled from Moscow to Kiev, Ukraine last month to renew an earlier one that was due to expire.

Satter was told by a Russian embassy official Dec. 25 that his application for a new visa had been rejected on the grounds that his presence was "undesirable."

On Tuesday 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 "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 new visa for another five years.

Satter served as the Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times 1976-82 and is now a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute, a Washington D.C. 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.

Last month, a Russian embassy official in Kiev reading from a statement, 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, Satter 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.

The Hudson Institute denounced the expulsion and urged Washington to press for his readmittance. "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.