MOSCOW, September 11 (Itar-Tass) - Georgy Zotov, correspondent of the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, who was detained in Damascus on September 9, had arrived in Syria with a tourist visa, expecting this to give him more freedom in travel, Nikolai Zyatkov, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.
He confirmed that the journalist, before leaving for Syria, had not turned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which provides assistance to representatives of the Russian mass media in their travel to foreign countries. “Zotov arrived in Syria without any permission, with a tourist visa. We used it at our risk, as this gives a greater freedom in travel in the country,” Zyatkov said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry had stated earlier that it regarded unfavourable pronouncements about the Russian embassy in Syria, made by correspondent of the newspaper Argumenty i Fakty, Georgy Zotov, unacceptable.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich wonders why the journalist, being aware of the negative attitude of the Syrian authorities to him (which follows from his interview), tried to enter the country without an arrangement with the Russian Foreign Ministry or with the Russian embassy in Syria, which had earlier given assistance to representatives of the Russian mass media many times. “And this despite the numerous warnings of the Russian Foreign Ministry that Russian citizens, because of the aggravating military and political situation in the country, should refrain from visiting Syria unless urgently needed,” Lukashevich noted.