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Russia: Catholic Bishop Denied Entry

Moscow, 20 April 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Russia has refused to admit a Catholic bishop sent by the Vatican to run a newly created diocese in Siberia. The Moscow Catholic weekly "Svet Evangeliya" (Light of the Gospel) said that Bishop Jerzy Mazur, the apostolic administrator of the diocese of Irkutsk, arrived in Moscow yesterday and was told his visa was invalid. He flew to Warsaw the same day.

The Polish newspaper "Gazeta Wyborcza" today quoted Mazur as saying in Warsaw that Russian officials failed to give him the reason why his visa had been declared invalid. The bishop said his visa was valid until January 2003.

Mazur was the second Catholic cleric to be denied entry into Russia. Earlier in the week, Russian immigration officials prevented Italian priest Stefano Caprio from re-entering Russia by annulling his entry visa.

In other news, authorities in Moscow are bracing for possible violence today as neo-Nazi skinheads look to mark the birthday of Adolf Hitler.

Moscow Mayor Yurii Luzhkov said earlier in the week that Moscow police are ready to handle any threat of violence. He also warned skinheads that police have the names of possible instigators.

The Moscow police had announced they would step up patrols today to prevent attacks on foreigners.

The Russian Interior Ministry estimates some 10,000 Russians -- mostly young men -- are members of neo-Nazi groups.