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Turkmenistan Expels Russian Journalist

Ashgabat, 16 March 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Russian Human Rights Center "Memorial" said today that Turkmen authorities have expelled a Russian journalist who was working in the Central Asian nation.

Memorial said journalist Viktor Panov of RIA-Novosti was rought to the airport in Ashgabat in handcuffs on 12 March and put a plane bound for Russia. Turkmenistan's security service held Panov for 15 days before expelling him.

Memorial did not give any reason why Panov was expelled, but Associated Press cited an unnamed Turkmen Foreign Ministry official as saying Panov was expelled for spying for Russia.

Oleg Panfilov, the head of the Russian Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, told RFE/RL's Turkmen service that expelling foreign journalists is common practice in Turkmenistan.

"I think that Turkmen authorities are proving once again by this move that the country is in strict self-isolation and all activities of the Turkmen authorities resemble the actions of the most authoritarian regimes, such as North Korea and Cuba," Panfilov said.

Panov holds both Russian and Turkmen citizenship. He had worked for RIA Novosti in Turkmenistan since the mid-1990s.

(RFE/RL's Turkmen Service/AP)

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