Domodedovo Limbo for Barred Journalist

New TimesNatalya Morar
Investigative reporter Natalya Morar, who was refused entry to the country Wednesday on security grounds, spent the night in a transit zone at Domodedovo Airport and was still stuck there Thursday.

Morar, who writes for The New Times magazine, said she was being barred from the country unfairly because of an article she penned claiming the Kremlin was secretly funding political parties. Airport officials and lawyers, however, said the authorities' move to deny her entry was perfectly legal.

"There is the law, and Natalya broke it," Yulia Pronina, a Domodedovo spokeswoman, said Thursday.

Moldovan national Morar and Ilya Barabanov, a Russian colleague whom she married last week with the aim of easing her passage into the country, were stopped by border guards at passport control Wednesday.

Pronina said she had been told by the border guards that Morar had broken laws governing entering and leaving the country but would not comment how. Morar said border guards told her she was a threat to national security.

Foreign Ministry sources told RIA-Novosti on Wednesday that Morar was listed as persona non grata and therefore banned.

Morar and Barabanov said they were afraid security personnel would try to force her onto the next flight to Moldova, on Friday morning. Morar said she did not intend to leave, and she and Barabanov strapped themselves together for a few hours on Thursday to avoid being separated.

The Federal Security Service did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment, and border guards refused to comment.

Yury Sharandin, head of the Federation Council's Constitutional Law Committee, said Thursday that Morar's actions were aimed at provoking the authorities.

"The situation has been created artificially by Morar and her supporters," Sharandin said Thursday. "She has deliberately created a scandal to try to raise her profile, to help the magazine's ratings, and to attract Western attention to her situation to show Russia in a bad light."

The transit zone standoff will end when border guards lose their patience and force her onto the plane, said Sergei Melnikov, a lawyer specializing in visa and immigration issues, who added that the guards were perfectly within their rights to do so.
Ilya Barabanov

"There can be no talk of deportation because she is not on Russian territory," Melnikov said, adding that the passport-control gate, through which Morar did not pass, marked the border.

He said dozens of foreigners are turned away from passport control every week without being informed of the reason behind the decision to grant them entry.

"I think she is trying to draw attention to herself," Melnikov said. "She knew she was not welcome, and she still tried to enter the country."

As for Morar's marriage to Barabanov, Melnikov said it did not make much of a difference.

"If a person is registered as unwelcome, their marital status is irrelevant," he said, although he added that European conventions required signatories to do their utmost not to break up families.

Morar and Barabanov were perhaps given an idea of the treatment they might face if they refuse to leave the transit zone Thursday, as airport personnel refused for a few hours to provide them with anything to eat or drink.

Catering staff had been providing hot buckwheat and meatballs to the pair, but on the orders of border guards they began refusing to serve them at around midday Thursday, Barabanov said.

A stream of food and presents from well-wishers at the airport was also cut off.

Domodedovo spokeswoman Pronina said neither the airport nor Air Moldova, the carrier that brought Morar to Russia, were responsible for providing them with food.