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Israelis again delayed, questioned for hours after landing in Moscow

Foreign Ministry downplays incident, which comes despite announcement of agreement to smooth travel arrangements between two countries

Illustrative: Passengers stand waiting at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, June 27, 2013. (Sergei Grits/AP)
Illustrative: Passengers stand waiting at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow, June 27, 2013. (Sergei Grits/AP)

A group of Israelis were detained for hours at a Moscow airport Tuesday after arriving in the country, Hebrew media reported, despite the Foreign Ministry saying just days earlier that it had resolved a spat with Russian authorities that has recently seen dozens Israelis being delayed or denied entry to Russia.

The travelers, who arrived on an El Al flight, said their passports were taken away and some of them had their luggage confiscated, reports said.

Some of the passengers were delayed for at least three hours as they were interviewed by border control authorities.

However, Israel’s Foreign Minister said in a statement that such questioning is routine and that some of the passengers were soon released while others were delayed for longer.

“A number of Israelis were questioned this morning by immigration authorities in Russia,” the ministry said in a statement. “Some of them entered the country after a short interview, while others are still delayed and the questioning extended. Questioning is a routine process and its duration is laid down according to the procedures of the host country and according to its laws.”

On Friday Israeli tourists were stopped at passport control after arriving on an El Al flight to Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.

That incident came the day after the Foreign Ministry said in a statement it had held a consular meeting with Russian officials in Jerusalem during which “both sides agreed to do everything so as not to harm the movement of tourists and business ties between the countries and decided on a number of steps to help enforce the bilateral visa-free agreement.”

The ministry said that the sides spoke about “Israelis being prevented entry in Moscow and the issue of illegal workers and asylum seekers entering Israel from Russia,” without detailing any solution beyond Russia confirming that Israelis entering for business talks would be handled under rules published by the Russian embassy in Israel.

Last week on Wednesday and Thursday Russia detained dozens of Israeli tourists and businesspeople at a Moscow airport for hours.

The move was designed to send a “message” to Jerusalem about the Kremlin’s frustration over the annual barring of thousands of its citizens from entering the Jewish state, Hebrew media reported on Wednesday night, citing diplomatic sources.

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