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NBCUniversal Executive Is Denied Entry Into Russia

An executive with NBCUniversal said he had been denied entry into Russia and detained for several hours on Wednesday, raising the prospect that a growing spy and diplomatic confrontation could now be tipping into the world of business.

The executive, Jeff Shell, who oversees the motion picture unit, said he was traveling to Russia on business when he was detained briefly and ordered to leave the country. Mr. Shell said NBCUniversal had a movie operation in Russia.

He is also the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the federal agency that oversees Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and other government broadcasters that are not well liked in the Kremlin.

Mr. Shell said he had arrived in Moscow around 11:30 p.m. and was making his way through immigration when he was pulled out of the line.

"I was then taken to a small room and left alone for about a half-hour before someone came back with a document in Russian that they wanted me to sign," he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Shell said he refused, telling the Russian authorities that he would not sign something he did not understand. He said he was then given a translation of the document, which explained that he had been barred from the country. He said that he was then escorted to another room at the airport and that he was locked inside for nearly three hours, until a flight to Amsterdam was arranged.

"An armed guard came and got me at about 5 a.m. and walked me onto the plane and to my seat," Mr. Shell said. "He gave my passport to the pilot and said not to give it back to me until I was on Dutch soil. It was quite embarrassing."

A spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said he was not aware of the details of Mr. Shell's case. The ministry did not respond to a written query. Mr. Shell said he was never told why he was denied entry.

That may never be known. But the incident comes after a series of actions against American diplomats by the Russian security services in recent months, using surveillance and psychological pressures that are intense and bizarre even by Moscow's standards, State Department officials have said.

The intimidation tactics used against diplomats living in apartments outside the American Embassy compound had escalated to the point that Secretary of State John Kerry raised the issue with President Vladimir V. Putin in meetings in March and June.

United States officials did not dispute reports that first appeared in The Washington Post that home intruders believed to be Russian security agents had intentionally made their presence known by rearranging furniture, killing a family dog and, in one case, defecating on a carpet.

In response, Washington has expelled two Russian diplomats, revoked the credentials of five of six honorary Russian consuls in the United States and tightened control over the movements of Russian diplomats. Last weekend, Russia expelled two American diplomats it accused of being C.I.A. officers.

"We hope that Washington will realize the depravity of the aggressive anti-Russia line," the deputy foreign minister, Sergei Ryabkov, said in a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry's website after the expulsions. "If they decide to move on the path of escalation, they won't be left without a response."

In what may have been the strangest episode, a Russian police officer tackled an American diplomat last month on the sidewalk outside the United States Embassy. The diplomat managed to slide on his back, with the officer on top of him, through an open door into the building, where the Russian police have no jurisdiction.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said the American man was a C.I.A. officer returning from a nighttime espionage mission in the Russian capital and that he wore a disguise that caused the officer to think he posed a threat to the embassy.

In statements carried by the Russian news media, Ms. Zakharova also denied The Post's earlier description of harassment, including the killing of a dog and the defecation on a carpet, calling the publication of these accounts "propaganda."

[Source: By Ron Nixon and Andrew E. Kramer, International New York Times, Brussels, 13Jul16]

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