Economics Or Security? p.16

By: Shawn Olson Questions still unanswered as to why an American journalist
was denied entry into Russia and based on whose authority sp.

WAS ECONOMICS OR state security the reason American journalist Steve Levine was denied entry into Russia April 26?
The pretext given to Levine ? who possesses a valid visa and press credentials ? by Russian immigration officials at Moscow's Vnukovo Airport was that he needed a transit visa to enter the country instead of a multiple entry visa.
Levine, a freelancer covering Central Asia for the Washington Post, Newsweek and Britain's Financial Times, was declared persona non grata based on a 1992 Commonwealth of Independent States treaty. The treaty decreed that banned individuals in one CIS republic were not welcome in
From his office in Kazakhstan, Levine told E&P, "The real troubling thing is the precedent that one pisses off the KGB in one of the more authoritarian republics and they have leverage they can use to threaten a Moscow based reporter."
The Uzbekistan government refused to renew Levine's credentials last September because of his coverage of Uzbek President Islam Karimov. Levine discounted a rumor, which he heard from his translator last spring, that Uzbek authorities weren't going to renew his credentials.
But the Uzbek government followed through.
Levine wasn't aware of his status until he returned in October from vacation in the United States.
Summoned by a Uzbek government press officer with a folder of his clips, Levine was told his credentials wouldn't be renewed because authorities felt his reporting of President Karimov was too negative. The press officer sent a letter to Levine's publications requesting they send another correspondent.
"The Central Asian republics are inexperienced in press matters," Levine said. "They [the Uzbek government] thought they could pick and choose correspondents."
The complaint letters Levine's employers sent denouncing the expulsion and requesting his reinstatement were ignored by Uzbek authorities.
Levine's April 17 cover story on Central Asia for Newsweek's international edition might have drawn some Moscow officials ire instead. (A link between Uzbekistan and Russia has been not substantiated.)
"Power is so diffuse here, no one knows who did it," Levine said.
The piece depicted the Central Asian Republics ? Kazakstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan ? as an arena where several countries, including Russia and the United States, were jockeying for influence over its natural resources, especially oil.
Levine said Russia was using its economic and political influence to put a stranglehold on the area.
"The question of oil involves a lot of powerful parties in Moscow," he said.
"Can't rule out Lukoil [the Russian Oil Ministry]," said Sergei Grigoriev, a political science professor at Northeastern University in Boston and a former press director for ex-Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.
Grigoriev speculated the ministry could have paid the Federal Security Service, or the renamed and revamped KGB, to detain Levine.
Responsibility for Levine's plight, Grigoriev declared, probably lies with the FSS. He said Levine should look among his acquaintances for FSS ties ? either they were operatives or were contacted by the FSS and compromised.
Grigoriev said action to resolve Levine's plight would have to occur quickly and at a high level within the Russian government, noting that a government employee and institution would have to lobby his case.
Grigoriev felt that the institutions best suited would be the Foreign Ministry and President Boris Yeltsin's administration.
Individuals who could assist Levine: Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, or someone progressive within Yeltsin's cabinet who was against strengthening the KGB. Possibilities were either Yeltsin's chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, or National Security advisor Yuri Baturin.
The KGB (FSS) would become intransigent and exploit Levine as vindicating the necessity of their continued existence, Grigoriev stated, if a solution wasn't forthcoming. The FSS would be "protecting their uniform," according to Grigoriev, as it had in the Soviet past.
If he was declared persona non grata because of Chechnya, Levine wondered, then why weren't broader actions taken against the Russian press when it was providing more critical coverage of Chechnya than its Western counterparts.
John Lloyd, former Moscow bureau chief with the Financial Times and currently a teacher at Harvard, said Levine was "more vulnerable" than a Moscow-based reporter because he was not full-time staff.
As a journalist "based outside of Russia, it's easier to have a visa taken away," Lloyd said.
He felt Levine was detained because of his reporting on Chechnya for the Washington Post, not an incident in Uzbekistan.
In Washington, Secretary of State Warren Christopher mentioned Levine's situation to Kozyrev during meetings April 26.
Robert Kaiser, managing editor of the Post, personally delivered a letter to the Foreign Minister that night at the Russian embassy protesting the lifting of Levine's visa and urging he be reinstated.
A spokesperson for the State Department said, "Nobody knows why this was changed, never explained."
When Levine's situation was raised with the Russians, according to the spokesperson, they said Levine was told to reapply.
The spokesperson said the issue was discussed at various levels within the State Department.
The lack of movement on either side has irked Levine.
"Looks to me like the Russians have swept it under the rug," he said. "It says something about how the Russian government is willing to be seen internationally."
Levine was also dismayed at how little urgency the American embassy in Moscow has displayed about the case.
"Not high priority," he said, "even though Christopher said something to Kozyrev."
Overall, Levine said, the embassy was probably anxious about the May summit between President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin.
Levine felt the United States "didn't need something abrasive on the agenda. The embassy has accepted a weak-willed position," making it clear he wasn't being critical of Ambassador Thomas Pickering.
"A lot more at stake," he said ? NATO expansion, the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran ? "than a single expulsion."


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