Russia bars Moldovan investigative reporter

MOSCOW, Feb 28, 2008 (AFP) - A Moldovan journalist who has written about the Kremlin's control over political parties spent a second day Thursday at a Moscow airport after being refused entry to Russia, she told AFP by telephone.

"My husband and I are being held in the transit zone and are being watched by three border guards," Natalia Morar, who writes for the analytical weekly Novoye Vremya, said from Domodedovo Airport.

As a Moldovan citizen Morar, 23, does not need a visa to Russia, but she said she was barred entry Wednesday on grounds that she was a security risk.

Morar said she and her husband had "attached ourselves to each other with our belts" to resist attempts by guards to expel them Thursday.

"I refuse to return to Moldova. I want to see my lawyer and I demand that they let me enter Russia or that the FSB (security services) explain why I present a danger to Russia's security," she said.

Morar also told the Moscow Echo radio that the stress had caused her problems with an ongoing kidney illness and that she has later been provided with medical aid.

International rights groups Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) hit out at the ban.

"We demand that Morar be allowed to return to Russia and continue to freely work there. Her detention in the airport, as well as the detention of other reporters, shows how much her presence irritates Russian authorities," the RSF said in a statement.

"We are appalled by the treatment of our colleagues who have been harassed and held in limbo for two days without access to a lawyer or even a regular supply of food and water," CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Nina Ognianova said.

Morar was already barred in December from entering Russia and deported to Moldova.

She said the crackdown was most likely connected to an article she wrote for her magazine New Times that detailed how the Kremlin controls funding to political parties in December parliamentary elections.

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02/28/2008 22:43 GMT

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