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Russian Authorities Deny Entry To Japanese Activist

Yukiko Kikuchi
Toward the end of 2004, Yukiko Kikuchi, who was in Moscow on a student-exchange program, took part in a humanitarian action and ended up in a camp for displaced Chechens in Baku, Azerbaijan. There she met 14-year-old Imran Yunusov.

During a bombardment in Grozny, Yunusov was severely wounded in the head, but he was unable to receive adequate medical care in Azerbaijan.

Kikuchi determined to help him.

When she returned to Japan, Kikuchi opened a bank account and, through the Internet, appealed to her countrymen to send donations. In the summer of 2006, doctors in Kikuchi's hometown of Hirosaki operated on Yunusov and patched a hole in his skull with a fragment of artificial bone. The incident made Kikuchi even more interested in the people of Chechnya, whose plight she had followed since she first traveled to Russia at the age of 17.

Imran Yunusov is now 18 years old. He lives with his family in Grozny and is studying to be a programmer at the local university.

This year, on September 8, Kikuchi arrived in Moscow in order to transit on to Grozny and visit Yunusov. However, she was sent directly from the Moscow airport back to Japan. When the Japanese Embassy in Moscow asked the Foreign Ministry about the incident, the ministry referred to a point in Russian law on entering and exiting Russia that allows authorities to bar access to anyone who presents a potential threat to the security of the country.

The ministry did not, however, explain what kind of threat Kikuchi presents.

She is convinced she was denied entry into Russia because of her ties with the residents of Chechnya.

"I don't know the precise reason why I was not allowed to visit Russia," Kikuchi told RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service. "I have been to Chechnya several times. I have broad contacts with Chechens abroad. I have been to many camps for Chechen refugees. Maybe that is the reason."

(by Khasin Raduev of RFE/RL's North Caucasus Service)

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