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Monday, August 29, 2005

 

U.S. senators detained at Russian airport

From Moscow Times:

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.

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