Rebecca Harms, Co-Chair of the European Greens, was denied entry into Russia Thursday (25 September) after being held at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport for four hours.
Russian border guards gave no official reason for stopping Harms, only to later admit it was because she had voted in favour of EU sanctions against Russia.
It is the first time Russian authorities have stopped a member of the European Parliament from entering the country since the EU imposed sanctions on Russia over its conflict with Ukraine.
On 12 September, the EU banned a total of 119 Russian politicians and businessmen from traveling to the EU, as part of those measures.
Harms, a German national, was made to sign a document declaring herself “persona non-grata” before she was put on a plane back to Brussels. The document also states that if the legislator tries to enter Russia again, it would be considered a criminal offence.
The MEP traveled to Moscow in order to meet with civil society organisations working on human rights issues. She was also supposed to attend the trial of the Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is accused of espionage, and of the death of two Russian journalists in Ukraine.
Speaking at a press conference in the European Parliament today, Harms said the situation reminded her of Soviet times.
“It was a charade,” she said.
According to Harms, the Russian airport authorities said that her name appears on a “stop list”, but gave no further details. Until now, Russia has not made the blacklist public.
The German embassy in Moscow and the European External Action Service, the EU’s foreign affairs arm, sent letters of complaint to the Russian authorities and are making inquiries about the list.
Both the European Parliament and the European Commission condemned Russia.
“It is completely unacceptable to withhold the passport and papers of an elected MEP and to threaten that entry into Russia would be considered as a criminal activity,” Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, said in a statement.
“The lack of transparency by the Russian authorities with regard to blacklisted persons is regrettable, and goes against the spirit of the Visa Facilitation Agreement in place between the EU and Russia,” a Commission spokeswoman said today.