Westerners face long cross-examination at Russian border during Ukrainian war

Before being admitted to Russia last month, business owners of European Union member states give border authorities at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow the names of all Ukrainians on their mobile phone contact list. I was forced to do that.

“he [the border guard] I searched my phone and wrote down about 8-9 Ukrainian numbers on a piece of paper, “he told the Moscow Times.

“They took me to a special room and started asking if they had friends in Ukraine, why I was in Russia, and if I had Russian relatives my job was here.” He said.

The Moscow Times spoke with six Westerners questioned by security officials after flying to Russia since the beginning of the Ukrainian War, and foreigners, especially foreigners from Europe and the United States, were selected for cross-examination. We are increasing the evidence that we are.

Their explanation is that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has plunged Moscow-Western relations to historically low levels.Russian authorities Said They repeatedly believe that they are fighting a proxy war with the US-led military alliance NATO.

Of the three Westerners who requested to speak anonymously and freely and agreed to talk in detail about their experience, all tried to establish a relationship with Ukraine, a few hours of questions, a cell phone search. I told a similar story about the attempt.

Asked three hours after arriving in Moscow from Armenian capital Yerevan, EU citizens say this is the first time they have experienced this level of interest from border authorities, even though they have lived in Russia for the rest of their lives. Stated.

Customs officer at Vnucobo Airport in Moscow.
Andrey Nikelichev / Moscow News Agency

“I think their logic was to see if I said something that exposed me to be an enemy,” he said from Dubai to Moscow for an April work visit to the Russian capital. A British citizen asked when he arrived said.

“They took me to this room in Domodedovo, and in five hours a lot of different security, the FSB, and different people came,” he said.

Most European countries were officially included in the list of Russian countries exclusive As “unfriendly” announced within two weeks of the invasion.

Russia’s Federal Security Agency (FSB), which controls border security, has set aside people with passports from “unfriendly” countries, according to a Russian immigration lawyer who spoke to the Moscow Times on condition of anonymity. Was instructed to.

All interviewees told the same story that they were taken from a regular immigration booth to a waiting room full of foreigners. From there, the individual was taken to a separate room for questions.

“In my sense, there was an evolution from random airport security to a higher level of people, and in the end I think they were people who knew exactly who I was,” said a British citizen. Talked about his experience. “The question was about everything: me, my job, my family, my attitude towards” special operations “, all sorts of things. “

Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow. Sergei Vedyashkin / Moskva News Agency
Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.
Sergei Vedyashkin / Moskva News Agency

Each foreigner interviewed by the Moscow Times reported that the phone had been confiscated by the authorities. Authorities then took the device to another room and apparently inspected it.

“I asked him if he had the right to do it, and he quoted some laws,” said the EU business owner.

When the British people asked why he wanted his phone, he said officials told him They were “interested in what I read and the media I see.”

US Embassy in Moscow earlier this month warning Many citizens traveling to Russia are searching for electronic devices at the border.

“Remember that US citizens cannot reasonably expect privacy when using electronic devices in Russia,” said the embassy.

Another British citizen, who had worked as a teacher for three years in Moscow, reported having a similar experience at the capital city of Vnoucovo Airport after arriving by plane from the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Border officials detained him for an hour and a half, he said. In the meantime, they seem to have confiscated his cell phone and looked up his message on WhatsApp.

Police at Vnoucovo Airport in Moscow.Alexander Abilov / Moscow News Agency
Police at Vnoucovo Airport in Moscow.
Alexander Abilov / Moscow News Agency

“I don’t know if they’re trying to put some software on your phone or what they’re looking at. It’s like someone going through your house while you’re outside.” He said in an interview.

Despite the apparent increase in checks, there is no clear logic as to who was stopped at the border or how long it was stopped.

All three interviewees said they were the first to experience such a wide range of questions at the border with Russia.

The FSB at Moscow Airport, Domodedovo Airport, Sheremetyevo Airport, and Vnoucovo Airport, did not respond to written requests for comment on changes in border policy.

According to Timur Beslangurov, an immigration lawyer for VISTA Foreign in Moscow, Western targets are the strengthening of national security in the “current situation” and the reciprocity of Russians traveling abroad who have experienced “similar incidents”. Probably the result of an act. Business support.

Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.Alexander Abilov / Moscow News Agency
Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.
Alexander Abilov / Moscow News Agency

Beslangurov added that his company had no advice for foreigners who stopped by the border other than complying with the authorities’ demands.

Despite a dramatic decrease in the number of Westerners traveling to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine, increased surveillance has been brought about.

Many foreigners residing in Russia have opted to leave in the midst of an imminent recession and the outflow of Western companies from the Russian market, as the number of international flights has dropped significantly.

While some of these departures are likely to be temporary, the growing hostility to foreigners at the border and the increasingly warlike anti-Western rhetoric from authorities has led many to never again. It looks like it’s set to ensure that it doesn’t return.

“It will discourage everyone from wanting to pass immigrants here,” said a British teacher with his recent experience at the border.

He said he plans to leave Russia and move to the South Caucasus this summer.

“I think it might be the last straw for some people,” he said. Westerners face long cross-examination at Russian border during Ukrainian war

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