Four American female scientists detained in Siberia then deported from Russia
The US citizens were in 11 km from the Russian border with Mongolia apparently on a mission to study the endangered snow leopard in the Republic of Buryatia.
‘A group of American women have been detained by a border guard detachment in the village of Monday,’ said an official source. ‘It was established that the foreigners did not have special permission to be in the frontier zone.’
Their detention and deportation comes at a tense time in relations between the Russia and the US. However, no accusation of espionage was made against the women.
The four were detained on 1 May in the village of Mondy, Buryatia but the information was only released much later. The US women pleaded ignorance of laws which forbid foreigners into certain border regions without permission, it was reported.
They wanted to study the habitat of the snow leopard. One report said that they were fined after making a ‘full confession’ and showing ‘repentance’.
They were fined 2,000 roubles ($39) and ordered to travel to Irkutsk prior to leaving the country.
The detained were named as Dr Pamela Colorado, a Hawaii-based Native American scientist working with the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network; Beth Duncan, who works for the same US non-profit organisation; Darla Hillard, who works with the the group Snow Leopard Conservancy; and California-based Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Mueller, who also works with the snow leopard group.
All were reported to be US citizens by officials cited by local news agencies. It is believed the group left Irkutsk on 6 May.
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