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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Journalist Denied Visa Extension

STOCKHOLM -- Sweden on Tuesday protested a decision by Russian authorities to deny a visa extension for a Swedish television correspondent and urged Moscow to overturn the ruling.

Bert Sundstrom, who has covered Russia for public service broadcaster SVT for three years, was forced to return to Sweden on Saturday after Russia denied his request for a visa extension. His one-year visa expired Tuesday.

Russia has refused to explain why Sundstrom was denied a visa extension, and the Swedish Foreign Ministry on Tuesday asked Russia to overturn the decision.

Last month, Russia said it would not renew its permission for U.S. news channel ABC to operate in the country because the television network had broadcast an interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev.

"As far as we can see, Bert Sundstrom has not done anything that could provoke this," Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds said by telephone. "To not let a Swedish journalist who works for the Swedish public service broadcaster remain in Russia is very surprising to us. This causes great concern in Sweden."

SVT's news editor, Jan Axelsson, said the broadcaster had not experienced any similar treatment since the Soviet Union expelled its correspondent in the 1970s for interviewing Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov.

"We view this as essentially an expulsion," Axelsson said. "That is the effect it is having."

Axelsson said Sundstrom had covered "all the sensitive issues" in Russia, including the war in Chechnya and the Beslan school massacre, but added that Russian authorities had never complained about his work.

"He has done his job the way we are used to doing our jobs where there is freedom of speech and freedom of the press," Axelsson said. "And Russia is supposed to have that now."

Freivalds said the Swedish government would await Russia's answer on whether it would reconsider renewing Sundstrom's visa before deciding if it would take further diplomatic action.