Five Israeli citizens were detained for six hours upon their arrival at Moscow’s airport before being sent back to Israel on Wednesday in the second such incident in less than a week.
Russian authorities held the Israelis in a locked room in the airport for hours without their passports, water or access to the bathroom, one of the detained passengers told the Ynet news site. Only after the group complained did they receive a small bottle of water for all to share.
“It’s an embarrassment for the State of Israel that its citizens are treated this way,” the woman said. “It’s bad enough that they didn’t let us into Russia, but why lock us in a room for six hours without water, without a toilet and without contact with the outside world?”
She said law enforcement photographed them, took DNA swabs and fingerprints after they arrived on an Aeroflot flight.
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A similar incident took place last Friday when 10 citizens were detained just a day after Israeli-American backpacker Naama Issachar, who was jailed in Russia on drug charges, was released from prison during a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Foreign Ministry cited Russian border authorities as saying the Israelis “did not manage to explain the reason of their arrival in Russia,” according to the news site.
In recent months Russia has repeatedly detained and blocked Israelis from going in, reportedly in protest at Israel denying entry to hundreds of travelers from Russia.
The ten Israelis held last week, who were also traveling on an Aeroflot flight, were detained at the airport upon arriving in Moscow.
Al-Monitor reported last month that Russia raised the issue of Israel blocking the entry of some of its citizens. Last month, several dozen Israelis were detained for questioning at Moscow’s Domodedovo. At the time, the Russian embassy issued a statement that appeared to link the detentions to the fact that “by December 1, 2019, 5,771 Russian tourists were not permitted to enter Israel.”
In December, the Foreign Ministry held a consular meeting with Russian officials in Jerusalem during which it said “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.
Despite the apparent resolution, since then some Israelis have been detained and held for hours after arriving in Russia.