Rights Activist Accused of Lying on Visa Form

Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth and his colleagues were denied Russian visas because they had provided "intentionally false information about the purpose of their visit," the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.

Roth initially indicated in his visa application earlier this month that he was coming to Russia as a tourist, but also indicated that he planned to meet journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said in a statement.

Roth's application was denied, and when he and two colleagues reapplied for a business visa, their invitations were issued by the Agriculture Ministry, and they were identified as "managers" of McKinsey Company, Kamynin said.

Because of the false information, the visas were denied, he said.

Because of the visa denial, Roth was unable to attend the rights watchdog's Wednesday presentation of a report in Moscow that criticizes recent legislation increasing government scrutiny of NGOs and broadening authorities' power to shut down them down.

Roth told The Moscow Times on Wednesday that it was the first time a Human Rights Watch employee had ever been denied a Russian visa.

Calls to Roth's cell phone and his office in New York went unanswered Thursday afternoon.