Continuing the trend of troubling stories coming from Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next month, Russia has expelled an American journalist for the first time since 1991.
This will surely warm the fragile, cold relationship between the two countries. Buzzfeed's Max Seddon reports Russian officials denied entry to journalist David Satter, who works in an advisory position to Radio Free Europe's Moscow bureau, on December 25, 2013 for little to no apparent reason. The Guardian reports Satter travelled to Kiev, Ukraine, over the holidays to renew his visa at the Russian embassy. But once he arrived, Alexy Gruby a diplomat, read him this statement:
"The competent organs have decided that your presence on the territory of the Russian Federation is not desirable. You are banned from entering Russia."
The U.S. ambassador, Michael McFaul, tried to appeal the decision but was ultimately unsuccessful. “I think this is a change in policy,” Satter told the Financial Times, where he works occasionally as a Moscow correspondent. “The Russian authorities have moved from trying to influence the western press to trying to control it.” Satter, a veteran journalist and author of three books on the country, was no stranger to Russia — the writer has lived and travelled in the country since 1969.
The "competent organs" refers to the Federal Security Service (FSB), Putin's powerful spying and counter-intelligence agency, according to the Guardian. Why, or how did Satter anger the spies? No one knows. There's one potential theory that Satter denies, per the Financial Times:
One of Mr Satter’s books contains a chapter detailing evidence suggesting Russian security services were behind apartment bombings in several Russian cities in 1999. Blamed on Chechen terrorists, the bombings provided a pretext for launching a new war in Russia’s breakaway republic of Chechnya, which boosted the popularity of Mr Putin, then Russian prime minister.
But Satter is not the only journalist to be denied entry to Russia lately after publishing long or critical reports on the country. Russia recently denied entry to Dutch journalists Rob Hornstra and Arnold Van Bruggen for their extensive reporting on Sochi ahead of the Winter Games. In 2011, Guardian reporter Luke Harding was denied entry after a rough relationship with some Russian security officials.