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Russia bars leading EU lawmaker critical to Moscow from entering country to observe a trial

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BRUSSELS — A leading member of the European Parliament said Friday that Russian authorities had barred her from entering the country despite having a valid diplomatic passport.

German MEP Rebecca Harms, a frequent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that border guards kept her for three hours at Moscow airport and told her she had been declared persona non grata. Harms, a co-president of Parliament's pro-environment Greens caucus, took the next plane back to Brussels on Thursday after being refused entry.

The 28-nation EU condemned Russia's decision and accused Moscow of a "regrettable" lack of transparency in blacklisting people.

Russia's envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies that Harms was denied entry because she's on the list of people barred from visiting Russia in response to the EU sanctions targeting Russian officials and lawmakers.

Chizhov said that Russia has chosen not to release the names of those targeted, but said he would have advised Harms against traveling to Moscow if she had contacted him before the trip.

EU foreign policy spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said the decision blocked Harms from participating as an observer in the espionage trial of a Ukrainian military officer even though Harms "checked with the Russian authorities before traveling."

The officer, Nadezhda Savchenko, was taken prisoner by pro-Russia rebels in June during fighting in eastern Ukraine and later moved to Russia where she was detained on charges of involvement in the killing of two Russian journalists.

Kiev has demanded her release.

Chizhov said Savchenko's case was not a factor in denying entry to Harms.


Vladimir Isachenkov contributed from Moscow.

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