January 9, 2003 - Mosocw Times: Now Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist
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January 9, 2003 - Mosocw Times: Now Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist
Now Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist
Read and comment on this story from the Mosocw Times on Irene Stevenson, a prominent American labor activist who has lived and worked in Russia since 1989, who has been deported from the country, in the latest case of diplomatic pressure on foreigners in the nonprofit sector here. Stevenson's ouster is at least the third case in less than a month of federal authorities squeezing out representatives of Western nonprofit groups.
The story provides insight into the Russian decision December 27 to terminate the agreement for the Peace Corps to work in Russia. This is one more measure of the Russian government's attempts, after a decade of openness to the West, to turn the nation inward by keeping foreigners out. The freedom many Russians had thirsted for after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union brought a flood of foreign cultural and religious influences that some welcomed but others perceived as crowding out Russia's own values. Also the new ascendancy of the FSB (the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB), President Vladimir Putin's professional alma mater, and its discomfort with foreigners play a key role in the visa problems.
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Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist*
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Russia Turns Away U.S. Labor Activist
By Natalia Yefimova
A prominent American labor activist who has lived and worked in Russia since 1989 has been deported from the country, in the latest case of diplomatic pressure on foreigners in the nonprofit sector here.
Irene Stevenson, the executive director of the American Center for Labor Solidarity and the Russia representative of the AFL-CIO, a major U.S. umbrella group for trade unions, arrived in Moscow from Paris on Dec. 30. At passport control at Sheremetyevo Airport, border officials refused Stevenson entry, confiscated her visa and put her on the next plane back to Paris, the Pravda.ru web site reported this week.
As of Wednesday, the reasons for the deportation were not clear.
Stevenson's ouster is at least the third case in less than a month of federal authorities squeezing out representatives of Western nonprofit groups.
In late December, the U.S. Embassy said Russia will no longer accept Peace Corps volunteers. The decision came some four months after Moscow refused to extend the visas of 30 of the 64 Peace Corps volunteers who were halfway through their two-year stints.
The Foreign Ministry has said that Russia has outgrown the need for such volunteers. Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev, however, said last month that the volunteers had raised security concerns by collecting information about the political and socioeconomic situation in Russia's regions.
Patrushev said one of the volunteers was a former CIA agent and was establishing contacts with local authorities and major defense enterprises in Samara, RIA Novosti said.
At the start of this month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which played an important role as peace broker in the 1994-96 Chechnya war, began phasing out its mission in the rebel republic after the Russian government slashed its mandate there.
Stevenson's work in Russia over the past decade has focused on providing consultations and legal aid in labor disputes and training for union organizers.
Most recently, her organization was involved in supporting last month's air traffic controllers' strike.
Three weeks ago, the Izvestia newspaper featured a front-page portrait of Stevenson along with a question-and-answer interview about her 14 years in Russia. The interview contained nothing obvious that might have ruffled the government's feathers, barring a reference to continuing wage arrears -- a sore point ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections.
Sten Petersen, a senior specialist with the International Labor Organization's Moscow office, said he saw no obvious reasons for Stevenson's deportation.
"The Solidarity center is very grassroots-oriented and hasn't figured in any major front-page [business] conflicts that I know of," Petersen said by telephone Wednesday. "They have done a very good job assisting unions and protecting workers' rights."
A spokesman for the Federal Border Service declined to comment on any details of the case, but said that "if a foreign citizen is denied entry at the border ... it is based on Article 27 of the law on entering and leaving Russia," which allows the country to turn away anyone it considers to be a potential security threat.
Background on the Peace Corps in Russia
Read more background on the Peace Corps in Russia at:
Special Report: From Russia with Love 1 January 2003
PC Rep won't waste words on spying charges
Peace Corps' Man in Moscow won't waste words on the spying charges 5 January 2003
Peace Corps responds to Russian Allegations
Peace Corps responds to Russian suggestions of intelligence gathering 3 January 2003
Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision
Exclusive: Peace Corps disappointed with Russian decision 27 December 2002
Moscow to abandon Peace Corps agreement
New York Times: Russia bars future U.S. Peace Corps workers 28 December 2002
Pravda: Moscow informs Washington of intention to abandon Peace Corps agreement 27 December 2002
Associated Press: Russia Rejects U.S. Peace Corps 27 December 2002
US Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia
U.S. Ready to Remove Peace Corps From Russia, Citing Disputes 17 December 2002
Russian Spy claims "groundless" says US
Russian claims about Peace Corps volunteers "groundless" says US Embassy 16 December 2002
KGB accuses PCVs of "suspicious activities"
Update: KGB Chief says PCVs involved in suspicious activities 15 December 2002
KGB chief accuses Peace Corps workers of spying in Russia 15 December 2002
KGB refuses visas to religious workers
Russia refuses visas to religious workers 2 November 2002
What RPCVs say about the situation
Exclusive: Read the advice RPCVs gave the Peace Corps in August 18 August 2002
Russia is cooling to the Peace Corps
Time Magazine says Russia "Cooling To the Corps" 23 August 2002
Radio Free Europe makes the Case for the Peace Corps in Russia 18 August 2002
Secretary of State Powell makes no progress on Peace Corps visas with Russian foreign minister 14 August 2002
Russia refuses visas for Peace Corps Volunteers
Peace Corps Moscow chief denies allegations of non-professionalism 13 August 2002
Russia Ousting Dozens Of Peace Corps Volunteers 12 August 2002
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