Four Russian journalists barred from Ukraine

The editor-in-chief of the "Russian Pioneer" magazine and special correspondent for the Kommersant daily, Andrei Kolesnikov, and the newspaper's photo correspondent Dmitry Azarov were told by Ukrainian border guards to get off a train and banned from entering the country under a pretext of carrying insufficient funds.

The editor-in-chief of the "Russian Pioneer" magazine and special correspondent for the Kommersant daily, Andrei Kolesnikov, and the newspaper's photo correspondent Dmitry Azarov were told by Ukrainian border guards to get off a train and banned from entering the country under a pretext of carrying insufficient funds.

Kolesnikov and Azarov, who held Kommersant IDs, hotel booking and 50,000 rubles each, were on their way to Donetsk where they were planning to spend three days, Kolesnikov told Interfax.

"We did not rule out going to Kharkiv, where, to our knowledge, serious events were expected on the part of the Ukrainian authorities," he said.

We passed Russian customs in Belgorod without any problem, but Ukrainian border guards in Kharkiv held and questioned us at the border station for four hours, the journalist said.

"The Russians, of whom there were five on the train, were under very close scrutiny. Apart from us, they held two other television journalists and a man who was traveling from Belgorod to Donetsk to visit his girlfriend on her birthday," he said.

We did not hide the purpose of our visit, Kolesnikov said. "Having learnt that we are journalists, the faces of Ukrainian border guards lit up and they offered us to leave with our belongings and promised that in the best-case scenario we shall continue our trip, only in the opposite direction," he said.

The border guards wanted to know whether the detained individuals were of the military draft age. They paid particularly close attention to the television journalists, whose answers, they said, were too evasive, Kolesnikov said. "Admit it: you are Lubyanka agents," the Ukrainian border guards said.

"The young man who was traveling from Belgorod was being quizzed for a long time as to what military hardware he had seen. They were especially preoccupied with four helicopters, which the border guards said were hovering over Belgorod," Kolesnikov said.

After four hours of questioning the journalists were sent to Belgorod where they gave their explanations to Russian border guards.

The ban on our entry to Ukraine is not official because we have not been given any document to that effect, Kolesnikov said.

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