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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

'Xenophobic' Officials Force 2 Out of Region

Two lecturers with the U.S. nonprofit organization National Democratic Institute, were forced to leave the southern Krasnodar region because of what one of them described as "xenophobic" treatment by local authorities.

American Brian O'Day, 37, and Latvian Alex Grigoryes, 44, were in the region to give a series of seminars on civic rights and party building for local liberal party activists, but were forced to leave last week after local police claimed their documents were not in order.

The two insist that they had all the necessary documents to visit the area.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued an official statement Wednesday saying it was "looking into the situation."

"It was a very sad incident caused by the xenophobia of the local authorities," one of the two lecturers said in a telephone interview Wednesday. He asked to have his name withheld.

Local organizers of the seminar said police targeted the lecturers immediately after Krasnodar regional Governor Nikolai Kondratenko hinted in a radio broadcast that the lecturers were agents of foreign intelligence services.

Kondratenko has repeatedly expressed anti-Semitic, racist and anti-Western statements and has been censured by Jewish groups and human rights activists.

The lecturers "were clearly taken [by Kondratenko] to be agents of the international Zionist conspiracy," said Valery Korenets, local branch chief of the Our Home Is Russia centrist movement.

Our Home Is Russia, along with the liberal Yabloko and Russia's Choice parties, invited the lecturers to the Krasnodar region, where elections to the local parliament are due this fall.

Grigoryes and O'Day arrived in the city of Krasnodar on March 18 and conducted seminars for local youth groups and Yabloko officials before moving on to the resort town of Goryachy Klyuch on March 22.

On arrival in the resort, the lecturers checked into the Sovietskaya Rossia Hotel where, they were to hold a three-day seminar on party building and electoral technologies for Russia's Choice and Our Home Is Russia activists.

On the morning of March 23, the two had started a seminar for Our Home Is Russia activists when four policemen armed with Kalashnikov submachine guns appeared and told the participants to disperse because the visas of the two lecturers were "not in order," said Korenets, who was at the seminar.

The lecturers were ordered to check out of their hotel that afternoon because, police said, they had failed to register with the Goryachy Klyuch police.

The lecturers immediately returned to the city of Krasnodar. They then left for Moscow after failing to find suitable premises to rent for seminars.

"We wanted to question them on the goal of their visits and to undergo registration, but they wouldn't come," said Vladimir Kiyan, chief of the Goryachy Klyuch police force's registration and passport department.

Kiyan denied receiving any orders from his superiors to force the two out of town.

The lecturers insist, however, they had not been asked to report to police and believed they could stay in Goryachy Klyuch without restrictions because the city of Krasnodar was written in their visas. O'Day has a dual-entry visa valid until May, while Grigoryes has a multiple-entry visa that expires in August.

Yevgeny Savelyev, chief of the Krasnodar police's visa and registration department, said Wednesday that the visas held by Grigoryes and O'Day were valid for their stay in Goryachy Klyuch. Savelyev promised he "will sort it out" with his subordinates in the town.

In his telephone interview Wednesday, the lecturer said the National Democratic Institute does not plan to file any official protest with the Krasnodar regional administration.

He said he is prepared to return to the region if allowed by local authorities.