Russia tells tourist ignorance no excuse

Aug. 27, 2007 at 8:15 AM
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MOSCOW, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- A Chilean woman was arrested in Russia for allegedly trying to leave the country with souvenir Soviet military medals.

Roxana Contreras, 29, was arrested June 13 at the Voronezh airport as she was about to fly out of the city. She had purchased Red Army artifacts from a roadside vendor and was planning to return to her studies at the University of Missouri, the International Herald Tribune reported from Moscow.

She said she was unaware Russia forbids the removal of any artifacts more than 50 years old and has been forced to rent an apartment while she awaits trial, which is to begin Tuesday, on the charge, which carries a maximum 7-year sentence, the report said.

Meanwhile, her lawyer, officials from the Chilean Embassy in Moscow and U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., have run into a brick wall trying to sort out the judicial system and get explanations, the report said.

Nadezhda Osennyaya, the press secretary at the Voronezh region customs department, told the newspaper Contreras' ignorance was irrelevant.

"We understand that she didn't know but that's her problem," Osennyaya said. "We have a saying -- lack of knowledge does not free one from responsibility."

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