MOSCOW, Jan. 14 (UPI) -- For the first time in more than 30 years, Russia expelled a U.S. journalist, a move likely to further strain Washington-Moscow relations, officials said.
David Satter, who was an adviser to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty funded by the U.S. Congress, was told on Christmas he was banned from the country, the British newspaper the Guardian reported Monday.
Satter, a former Financial Times reporter and author of three books on Russia and the former Soviet Union, said he hasn't been able to collect his notes or other belongings at his Moscow apartment after he was told he was being expelled when he went to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to renew his visa.
The Guardian said Alexy Gruby, a Russian Embassy diplomat, read to Satter a prepared statement: "The competent organs have decided that your presence on the territory of the Russian Federation is not desirable. You are banned from entering Russia."
The "competent organs" means the Federal Security Service (known by the initials FSB), President Vladimir Putin's powerful domestic spy and counter-intelligence agency.
Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, raised Satter's case with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov on the eve of the refusal. After the expulsion, the embassy filed a diplomatic protest and asked for an explanation, which Russian authorities declined to provide.
Satter, 66, told the Guardian, "My position is that this ban should be reversed immediately."
He said the manner of his expulsion seemed to imply the FSB considered him a risk.
"This is a formula used for spies," Satter said. "To apply it to a journalist is something I have not seen in nearly four decades of writing and reporting on Russia. It is indicative that they consider me, for whatever crazy reasons, to be a security threat."
Since 2009, the Obama administration has been working to "reset" relations Moscow, which critics said has yielded few positive results.
"I think my expulsion shows the true nature of the reset. It was meaningless from the start. It ignores the realities of Russian life and Russian politics," said Satter, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a fellow at Johns Hopkins University. "It treats Russia as a normal democratic country, instead of treating it as a society dominated by a small group dedicated only to itself, both materially and politically. It's self-deluding. It makes it more difficult to deal with the consequences."
Before Satter, the last U.S. journalist expelled from Russia was Newsweek bureau chief Andrei Nagorski in 1982. Another reporter, Nicholas Daniloff, was held briefly 1986 after the FBI arrested a Soviet spy in New York.