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U.S. Broadcasting Executive Denied Entry To Russia

U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Jeff Shell

The chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. agency that oversees civilian government broadcasting and media operations, has been detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and denied entry to Russia despite having a valid visa.

Jeff Shell, who is also the chairman of NBCUniversal Filmed Entertainment Group, was stopped by security officials shortly after arriving on a flight from Prague just after midnight on July 13, according to the BBG.

Shell was kept in locked rooms at the airport for several hours before being escorted to a flight to Amsterdam about 5 a.m. Moscow time, according to a BBG statement.

Shell told colleagues he was traveling with that airport security authorities told him the "denial of entry to Russia has permanent status" and was "a lifetime ban" from the country, the agency said.

The incident follows a series of tit-for-tat expulsions of U.S. and Russian diplomats from both countries and reports of increased harassment of U.S. diplomats in Moscow itself.

Shell's detention came on the eve of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to Moscow, where he was expected to discuss the conflict in Syria, the situation in Ukraine, and other matters with his Russian counterpart and other officials.

BBG officials also met with U.S. Ambassador John Tefft in Moscow early on July 13 to discuss the incident.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner released few details about the incident, saying only that U.S. officials had discussed it with Russian counterparts.

Toner declined to comment on whether Kerry would raise the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov when Kerry visits Moscow on July 14-15.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, confirmed Shell's detention and denial of entry, saying in a statement on July 13 that he was denied entry because his name was on a "stop list" that Moscow widened in response to U.S. visa sanctions on Russians.

The ministry said Shell's position with the BBG made him "one of the organizers" of what it described as "large-scale, false anti-Russian propaganda, financed from the U.S. budget."

"Sanctions are always double-edged," the Russian ministry said. "Those who introduce them against Russia should be aware of the inevitability of a response."

The BBG oversees all of the United States' nonmilitary broadcasting, including RFE/RL's Russian Service, which has a bureau in Moscow.

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