Russia expels journalist critical of Kremlin

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia expelled a journalist on Sunday who had alleged Kremlin malpractice in this month’s parliamentary election and tracked funds flowing from Kremlin officials to foreign banks.

Natalia Morar, a Moldovan national who works in Moscow for the small Russian magazine New Times, said she had been told at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport that she was being refused entry to Russia on the orders of the FSB security service.

Having returned from a press trip to Israel, she found herself put on a plane to the Moldovan capital Chisinau.

“I am more than confident that the reason for my expulsion is my occupation,” she told Reuters from Domodedovo before boarding her flight.

“The final straw, I think, was my article on ‘black money’ in the Kremlin, which has been financing parties during the election campaign.”

New Times’s political editor, Ilya Barabanov, said Morar may have been expelled for an article about the murder of the deputy central bank governor, Andrey Kozlov, in September 2006.

“Morar wrote some material about the inquiry into the death of Kozlov that described the withdrawal of large sums of money by senior Russian officials through Discount Bank and Raiffeisen Bank,” Barabanov said.

An FSB spokesman declined to comment on the case.

Before joining New Times, Morar worked as a press officer for Garry Kasparov’s Other Russia movement, which has organized protests against President Vladimir Putin.

The International Federation of Journalists called on the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe to investigate the case.

“This action is a shocking violation of press freedom and is clearly a warning to others not to try to expose the dark side of politics in modern Russia,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White.

A number of European states and the United States have urged Russia to investigate allegations of abuses in the December 2 election after rights watchdogs said the campaign had been marred by biased media coverage and abuse of government resources in favor of Putin’s United Russia party. Germany said the vote was “neither free, fair nor democratic”.

The president of the Russian Union of Journalists, Vsevolod Bogdanov, also condemned Morar’s deportation and said his union would protest.

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