U.S. Senators Held at Russian Airport
A U.S. delegation headed by Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) was detained for three hours at a Russian airport Sunday before being allowed to leave the country for Ukraine.
Border guards in the Siberian city of Perm demanded to search the U.S. government aircraft carrying the delegation, which also included Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). The senators, members of the Foreign Relations Committee, were in Russia as part of a weeklong visit of warhead storage facilities in the former Soviet Union, part of a U.S.-funded program to secure or destroy nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
American officials, citing a U.S.-Russian agreement that does not allow such inspections, refused to allow the search of the plane, leading to the three-hour standoff, according to Andy Fisher, a spokesman for Lugar who is joining the delegation.
Fisher said the group was treated “just fine,” although members were held in an uncomfortably stuffy room adjacent to the tarmac and allowed out onto an adjoining porch area only after they surrendered their passports.
“This is not the first time this has happened,” said Fisher, noting that a delegation including Lugar was briefly detained two years ago in Perm. “It may be some kind of internal bureaucratic problem.”
U.S. officials in Moscow and Washington intervened with the Russian authorities to secure the group’s departure.
After Ukraine, the delegation is scheduled to visit Azerbaijan.