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25 Jul, 2008 11:11

Russian MP denied entry to Crimea

Ukraine has reportedly launched a criminal case against a Russian State Duma deputy, accusing him of attempting to disrupt Orthodox Christian celebrations in Kiev. Konstantin Zatulin was denied entry to Ukraine at Simferopol airport in Crimea on Thursday.

The Unian news agency in Ukraine reports that the country’s security service, the SBU, launched a criminal case after a tip-off.  It claims to have received  “information that Konstantin Zatulin and Kirill Frolov, a representative of the CIS Countries Institute, were trying to destabilise the situation in Ukraine during the celebration of the 1020th anniversary of the Kyiv Rus’ Orthodox Baptism.”

The Russian MP spent the night in the airport’s VIP hall and is on his way back to Moscow.

Zatulin was due to attend celebrations for Russian Navy Day in Crimea – where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is stationed.

On Wednesday, Zatulin criticised appeals for the unification of Ukraine’s Orthodox churches by the country’s President Viktor Yushchenko, who, according to the MP, sought to separate the Ukrainian Church from the Moscow Patriarchy.

The Foreign ministry has accused Ukraine of breaking a bilateral agreement and injuring the feelings of millions of Orthodox believers in Russia and Ukraine.

First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Denisov accused Kiev of conducting religious celebrations in an atmosphere of disrespect towards the leadership of the Orthodox Church.

His comments followed a meeting in Moscow between Foreign Ministry officials and the Ukrainian ambassador Konstyantyn Hryshchenko, who was summoned to explain why a Russian MP had been denied entry to Crimea.

The Ukrainian Ambassador said:

“I think such incidents tell us we need to respect each other, and understand how delicate some matters are. Some things are just being interpreted wrongly, and they hurt the development of our relations.”

It’s not the first time Zatulin has been banned from Ukraine. He was stopped from entering the country in 2006. The MP says he filed a complaint at the human rights court in Strasbourg over the earlier incident. But the hearings are yet to be heard.