EU condemns Russia for barring lawmaker

26th September 2014, Comments 0 comments

The EU condemned Russia on Friday for barring entry to a European lawmaker who flew to Moscow to observe a trial of a Ukrainian pilot accused of espionage.

Rebecca Harms, a German who co-chairs the Greens group in the European Parliament, said she was refused entry on Thursday despite holding a diplomatic passport.

She said she was then sent on a flight back to Brussels after authorities told her they objected to her voting for sanctions against Russia.

"We condemn the refusal, at a Moscow airport, to allow MEP Rebecca Harms enter the territory of the Russian Federation, despite her having checked with the Russian authorities before travelling," a spokesman from the EU diplomatic service said.

Harms was on her way to see the trial of Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, Ukraine's only female aviator of a Su-24 bomber who is currently sitting in a Russian jail, and "whose continued detention remains a matter of concern for the EU," the spokesman added.

Russia's "lack of transparency" over its list of people blacklisted from entering the country was "regrettable" and went against the spirit of a visa agreement between Brussels and Moscow, the spokesman said.

At her press conference, Harms said she was aware she was on a "stop list" but had no idea who else was on it, though it is possible that all European parliamentarians who voted for sanctions were blacklisted.

European parliament president Martin Schulz said he would lodge a formal protest with the Russian embassy in Brussels over the treatment of Harms.

"I strongly denounce this grave diplomatic incident which is a worrying setback for relations between the European Parliament and Russia," he said.

"Today, the Russian embassy in Brussels will receive a protest letter calling on the Russian government to withdraw the decision."

The German foreign ministry on Thursday criticised as "unacceptable" the Russian decision to bar entry to Harms.

© 2014 AFP

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