Russia relents on World Cup visa for German journalist
BERLIN (AP) Russia has granted entry to the World Cup for a German journalist who exposed systematic doping in Russian athletics, reversing a decision last week that angered German officials.
However, Hajo Seppelt will face questioning if he goes to the tournament, Russian law enforcement said on Tuesday.
German public broadcaster ARD said Seppelt’s visa to report on the World Cup was declared invalid last week on the grounds that he was on a list of people who are ”persona non grata.” Officials including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas publicly pressed Russia to reconsider.
On Tuesday, Maas tweeted: ”Russian side has just informed us that (at)hajoseppelt can enter the country at least for the World Cup. Still pushing for free reporting.”
The tournament is played June 14-July 15.
The argument over Seppelt’s visa came ahead of a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on Friday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Investigative Committee, a major Russian law enforcement agency, said in a statement it will insist on Seppelt being questioned about his reporting if he travels to Russia.
That’s part of a Russian investigation into former doping laboratory director and whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, who now lives in the U.S. in a witness protection program.
The Investigative Committee alleges Rodchenkov invented his testimony about doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and a government-run cover-up. Instead, it has accused him of tricking clean Russian athletes into taking banned substances.
FIFA said Tuesday that ”press freedom is of paramount importance.”
”We regret the inconvenience experienced by the journalist and reiterate that FIFA, (local organizers) and hosts Russia will offer the best possible working conditions for all accredited media representatives,” football’s governing body said.