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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 February 2008, 16:28 GMT
Russia refuses journalist entry
Natalya Morar - photo courtesy of www.hroniki.info website
Natalya Morar is contesting her earlier deportation in court
A Moldovan journalist has been involved in a stand-off at a Moscow airport after being denied entry on the grounds she is a threat to national security.

Natalya Morar, 23, who works for the independent Russian magazine New Times, said she would only leave once she had been told why she was a threat.

But officials later said she had agreed to return to Moldova on Thursday.

Ms Morar, who was first refused entry to Russia last December, says her work to expose corruption is to blame.

The journalist, who has lived in Moscow for six years, said her articles about the murder of a deputy central bank governor and the funding of political parties during parliamentary elections may have led to her expulsion.

'Shameful' incident

Ms Morar flew in on Wednesday morning from the Moldovan capital Chisinau with her Russian husband Ilya Barabanov, whom she married since she was last refused entry.

But she was stopped at passport control at Domodedovo airport and told that her status had not changed despite her marriage.

The couple were asked to return to Chisinau on the next flight but refused.

Her lawyer said he had not been given access to the transit zone where she was being detained.

Sources at Russian law-enforcement agencies told local media Ms Morar was on a list of people barred from entering Russia without explanation.

The list includes people under criminal investigation or suspected of links with terrorist organisations and those considered a threat to national security.

Similar practices have been in place in the US and other Western countries for many years, the source said.

However, the general secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, Igor Yakovenko, described the incident as "shameful".

"A big strong country is afraid of a young journalist, big strong secret services think a young, talented journalist is a danger to Russia," he told Interfax news agency.

Ms Morar filed a petition in a Moscow court against the Federal Security Service earlier this month over her December deportation.

The incident comes as Russians prepare to vote in 2 March presidential elections.

On Tuesday, a report by human rights organisation Amnesty International said free speech was "shrinking alarmingly" under President Vladimir Putin.



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