A U.S. Senate delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar was detained for three hours at the Perm airport on Sunday as it tried to leave the country after visiting nuclear weapons-related facilities, the U.S. Embassy said.
A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said the delay was "for customs reasons."
The Chicago Tribune, which had a reporter traveling with the delegation, reported that Perm border guards had demanded to inspect the group's military DC-9 jet and that U.S. officials refused, citing a joint U.S.-Russian agreement exempted military planes from inspection.
"We don't search Russian airplanes in the U.S. You will not search U.S. planes in Russia," said Ken Myers, a senior Senate staff member in the delegation, the Tribune reported.
Lugar, a Republican from Indiana and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Barack Obama, a Democrat from Illinois; and 10 staff members were initially locked in an airport lounge, the newspaper said. They were allowed to leave the lounge only after they surrendered their passports.
Newly appointed U.S. Ambassador William Burns helped arrange the flight's departure.
The delegation was on its way to Kiev for a meeting Monday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko when it was delayed. The delegation was also scheduled to meet with Azeri President Ilham Aliyev and opposition groups in Baku on Wednesday.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
Support the Belarusian cartoonists
Third Way, the Belarusian organisation whose members are being prosecuted for producing satirical cartoons about Lukashenka,
have set up a web page where you can make a donation via PayPal. The group urgently
need money for their legal defence and operating expenses. Please give what you can today! Read more
We are continuing to focus our efforts on the Belarusian prisoner of conscience Mikhail Marinich.
We are campaigning for him to receive proper medical treatment, to be permitted to see his family,
and ultimately to be released from prison pending a review of his case. You can help by distributing
our factsheets and letters.
Members of these groups have joined our blog to share their views and experiences.