BRUSSELS—German member of the European Parliament and co-chair of the Green Party, Rebecca Harms, was detained on Thursday at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. She was declared a “persona non-grata” by the Russian authorities and sent back to Brussels four hours later.
The Russian permanent representative to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said that Harms has been blacklisted in response to European sanctions.
President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, described the incident as a “worrying setback for relations between the European Parliament and Russia.”
The German foreign ministry denounced it as “unacceptable.”
Harms says she was not aware of that and took precautions before her trip to make sure she could get in:
“I was concerned after many debates whether they still accept my diplomatic passport without any further conditions. My office checked it with the Russian embassy in Berlin and they confirmed that I could travel without any more conditions. So I have not expected this.”
She went to Russia to attend a court hearing for the case of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko, who has been detained in Russia since in June. She was brought illegally from Ukraine to Russia, Harms said, and is accused killing two Russian journalists in Ukraine.
“I wanted to make sure there is more attention for this kind of political justice now, today in these times in Moscow,” explained Harms.
Savchenko was sent for a month-long psychiatric evaluation in Moscow after the court hearing at which Harms could not be present. The pilot promised to protest the evaluation, and threatened to go on hunger strike.
Harms has been working on Russia and Ukraine issues for many years and has established herself with local activists.
“Since years I am in contact with the human rights movement people from Russia. I am also in contact with citizens’ organizations in Russia who are trying to achieve better protection for the environment,” she said.
She is very concerned how democracy is eroding in Russia and for Russia’s role in Eastern Ukraine.
“They have no fair elections, no democratic elections. And right now, with what they are doing in Ukraine, shows that they have also obviously lost respect considering the peace and order of the European continent, and they are violating systematically international law.”
Still she hopes to keep contacts in the country and go back, although it is unclear when her name will be removed from the blacklist.