The Slatest

Russia Expels Its First U.S. Journalist Since the Cold War

A view of the general office of the FSB (KGB) building on January 23, 2006 in Moscow

Photo by Oleg Klimov/Getty Images

So much for those recent pre-Olympic olive branches, via CNN:

Russia has expelled an American journalist and author critical of President Vladimir Putin in one of the first such cases since the Cold War. David Satter, a former Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times and author of three books on Russia and the former Soviet Union, had been working as an adviser to the U.S. broadcasters Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty since September.

Satter moved to Moscow in September to conduct research for a new book and to work for the congressionally funded radio services. He says he traveled to Ukraine to renew his visa in December and, once there, was summoned to the Russian Embassy in Kiev where he was read a somewhat cryptic statement informing him he wouldn’t be allowed to return to Russia: “The competent organs have decided that your presence on the territory of the Russian Federation is not desirable. You are banned from entering Russia.”

As the Washington Post points out, the phrase “competent organs” is shorthand for security services, in this case almost certainly the Federal Security Service (the KGB successor known as the FSB), Putin’s powerful counter-intelligence agency. While Satter was expelled around Christmas, Russian officials didn’t comment publicly about the decision until today, one day after Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty first reported the news. Putin’s people said Tuesday that Satter was expelled for “multiple gross violations” of Russian migration law—a charge Satter denies.

According to the Guardian, Satter’s expulsion is the first of an American journalist living in Russia since the Cold War. The last to be unilaterally thrown out was Newsweek bureau chief Andrei Nagorski in 1982, according to the paper. The surprise move comes after Putin and his allies had issued amnesty to a host of high-profile prisoners (including members of Pussy Riot and Greenpeace), and comes just weeks before hundreds of journalists are set to begin showing up for the Sochi Games.

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