Russia apologized Monday to two U.S. senators who were held in an airport in the Urals for several hours after local officials refused to allow their U.S. military aircraft to depart without an inspection.
The delegation, led by Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, was held up at the Perm airport Sunday as it tried to leave Russia after visiting nuclear weapons-related facilities.
Russia's foreign ministry Monday formally apologized for the Perm incident.
"We regret that a misunderstanding has taken place and the discomfort experienced by senators," it said in a statement.
The ministry denied that the lawmakers were detained, saying the departure was instead "delayed as local border guard authorities had questions concerning some formalities and the status of the flight. After the diplomatic status of the flight was confirmed, the senators left Russia."
A slightly different interpretation came from the deputy head of the border checkpoint at the airport, Captain Maksim Zhaleyev, who told Interfax the senators were "detained" because they had refused to obey border guards' instructions.
Moscow sought to downplay the incident, which Mikhail Margelov, head of the international affairs committee of the Federation Council, said would hopefully not affect Russian-American relations.
"We know Lugar well, and he is also our colleague," Margelov added.
Some media outlets pointed out, however, that Lugar has been critical of the pace of democratization in Russia.
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