A BBC journalist said on Saturday that Russia had sent her out of the country, telling her she would never be able to return to “devastating” treatment, showing that the country she reported on for years was turning in.
In an unusual move at a time of already poor bilateral ties, Russia said Sarah Rainsford – one of Britain’s two Anglophone Moscow correspondents – was sent home after London’s refusal to grant Russian journalists visas.
In a BBC interview, Rainsford said she was shocked by the decision which she said was part of a wider diplomatic game at a time when Russia’s ties to the West were at stake.
The move not to renew her Russian visa after the end of this month seemed like a technical one, but it wasn’t, she said.
“I’m being sent away,” she said.
“I have been told (by Russian officials) that I can never come back. It is personally devastating.”
Rainsford, who is in Moscow for the second time, said she has lived in Russia for nearly a third of her life and devoted years to studying it.
Her departure before the end of this month follows a period ahead of parliamentary elections in September, when authorities in Russia have cracked down on Russian-language media at home, which they say are backed by malicious foreign interests seeking to fuel unrest.
Rainsford said the story about Russia had become increasingly difficult to tell in what she described as a cramped environment.
“This is a clear sign that things have changed. It’s another very bad sign about the state of play in Russia. Another sign that Russia is hot on its own,” she said.
The BBC has urged Moscow to reconsider the matter, calling the case an attack on press freedom.
Russia says it has warned London many times that it would respond to what it calls visa-related persecution of Russian journalists in Britain.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)