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Russia Detains U.S. NGO Activists Over Visa Status

Sharon Tennison, head of the NGO Center for Civic Initiatives (file photo)

Russian authorities have detained and fined a veteran U.S. activist who for more than three decades has promoted closer ties between Moscow and the West, saying she violated the terms of her visa.

Migration officials in the southern city of Volgograd detained Sharon Tennison, head of the U.S. nongovernmental organization Center For Citizen Initiatives (CCI), and fellow activist Theodore McIntire on February 16, the Interfax news agency cited a local court official as saying on February 17.

Officials said the activists conducted seminars in the city, violating the terms of the tourist visas they used to enter Russia.

The unidentified court official told Interfax that they were fined 2,000 rubles ($26) each but would not be deported.

Tennison founded CCI in 1983 to promote greater understanding between the United States and the Soviet Union. Her group has organized numerous programs, including exchanges involving U.S. and Russian entrepreneurs.

Russian media outlets described Tennison and McIntire as "agents" of the U.S. State Department and "propagandists."

Tennison, in fact, has sharply criticized U.S. policy toward Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government and has echoed the Kremlin’s own narrative of its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory, which triggered Western sanctions against Moscow.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Current Time, Interfax, and RIA Novosti
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