Barred Publisher Returns to Ukraine

A U.S. businessman who publishes an English-language newspaper in Kiev was allowed back into Ukraine on Thursday after being barred from entering the country two days earlier with no explanation.

Jed Sunden, publisher of the weekly Kyiv Post (circulation 20,000), says he was informed by Ukrainian border guards at Boryspil airport, upon his return from New York on Tuesday, that he had been declared a persona non grata.

Officials confiscated his passport, but he was neither detained nor questioned and simply told to leave.

After nearly 20 hours at the airport, Sunden was given back his passport and flew to Vienna, the Kyiv Post reported.

From Austria, Sunden contacted U.S. Embassy officials in Ukraine, who informed him that he could safely return.

According to Vitaly Sych, a reporter for the Kyiv Post, a Foreign Ministry official who asked that his name not be used, said the ministry had nothing to do with the order to ban Sunden and "learned about the incident too late."

At a news conference late Thursday, Tatyana Panich, deputy director of Omega Publishing, the firm headed by Sunden, said the company hadn't received responses to its inquiries to the Ukrainian president, security service, prime minister or the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Interfax reported.

The Foreign Ministry and Ukrainian border patrol refused to comment by phone Thursday.

But Interfax cited a statement by the ministry saying it has no complaints against Sunden in terms of "violation of visa regulations."

It remains unclear why Sunden was kept from entering the country or by whom, but Sych speculated that the Ukrainian secret service may have been responsible.

Sunden told his staff he had been informed unofficially at the airport that authorities had placed him on a list of individuals barred from the country as of March 31, two days after his departure to New York.

Sych said the paper had never been threatened or pressured by the government.

Sunden himself said Thursday that he did not believe the incident had political underpinnings, Interfax reported.

Sych noted that the incident occurred at an "odd time" f just two days before U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright is set to arrive in Kiev for talks.