War of words as Kremlin bans 89 European politicians from Russia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov needs to explain why 89 politicians from 17 European countries have been banned from entering Russia and confirm their names, an opposition lawmaker said yesterday in a formal inquiry.
Dmitry Gudkov, the sole member of Russia's parliament who opposes the Kremlin, also told Mr Lavrov that while he understood such a step might have been necessary, it should have been taken transparently and in consultation with parliament.
Russia has shared the list with European Union officials, but has refused to release it. The explanation Russia has given for the blacklist is that it was in response to EU economic sanctions and travel bans imposed on Russia for its actions in Ukraine.
The Associated Press obtained the list from a source at EU headquarters in Brussels.
The person who released it to the AP wanted to remain anonymous since the list had yet to be made official in Moscow.
The 28-nation EU criticised the Russian bans as "totally arbitrary and unjustified, especially in the absence of any further clarification and transparency".
Two German politicians who were turned back after flying into Moscow are on the list and were among several refusals that led the EU to ask Russia to share the list.
The bans also apply to several prominent, high-ranking officials from Britain, including the head of the MI5 security service, the chief of its defence staff, former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg and former foreign secretary and parliament member Malcolm Rifkind.
Britain said the Russians have provided no legal basis for the list. "If Russia thinks this action will cause the EU to change its position on sanctions, it is wrong," the British Foreign Office said yesterday in a statement.
Mr Gudkov's request drew a harsh reaction from Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
"Was he this active when EU countries put together their blacklists? And did he write such critical, or perhaps objective, letters to the leadership of EU countries with the request to stop compiling stop lists against Russian citizens?" Ms Zakharova said on Govorit Moskva radio.
"Probably he did this, but unfortunately for some reason no one knows about it." She later said in a Facebook post that Russia wouldn't release the list.
Others who have been banned from Russia include: Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister and president of the European Parliament; Stefan Fule, a Czech diplomat and former EU commissioner; Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister of Belgium and current member of the European Parliament.
More than half the politicians on the published list are from Poland, Sweden and the three Baltic countries that were once part of the Soviet Union. Politicians from Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Romania and Spain also are on it.