Vasily Krestyaninov, a Russian photojournalist, was refused entry into Georgia twice in less than two weeks, despite having lived in the country since the end of 2021.
On 3 September, Krestyaninov attempted to fly into Georgia from Yerevan. He was turned away upon arrival without being given an official reason by the Georgian border control.
Krestyaninov told OC Media that he was not allowed to look at the official notice for his denial of entry and that he was instead escorted by a police officer back onto a plane to Yerevan. The officer then gave the documents to the flight attendant.
‘When the policeman gave this paper to the flight attendant [on which the reason for the refusal to leave Georgia] was written, I asked the flight attendant for it, and by some miracle they allowed me to take a photo,’ explains Krestyaninov.
Krestyaninov was officially barred from entering the country for not meeting ‘other requirements defined by Georgian legislation’ — a common and deliberately vague justification given to people who are refused entry into Georgia.
[Read more on OC Media: Georgia denies entry to British woman ‘because of her birthplace’]
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not responded to OC Media’s inquiries about the case.
Krestyaninov had lived in Georgia since November 2021 and has reportedly not faced any difficulties leaving or entering the country, aside from occasionally being held up at the border.
On 23 August, he attempted to return to Georgia after travelling to Turkey for work. This time, the journalist was interrogated by a security officer in plain clothes.
‘He did not introduce himself and did not explain anything. I was asked for my phone number, as well as my wife’s, my address, and about my occupation. I was also asked with whom I live in Georgia and if I have friends’, recalled Krestyaninov.
He was made to board the plane back to Turkey without being offered any official documents explaining his denial of entry.
Escape from the Kremlin regime
A photojournalist who works with different publications including The Insider, a Russian investigative journalism outlet, and Associated Press, Krestyaninov cut his teeth covering anti-Kremlin demonstrations and protests. He also participated in some performances by anti-government Russian punk act Pussy Riot.
Krestyaninov decided to leave Russia after witnessing a car accident in 2021. He had reported the accident to the police, and a few days later, he was called in to the police station to testify.
‘When I came there, I was waiting for the police officers, but in the end, an officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) came. She placed a piece of paper in front of me, and instructed me to write: “Vasily Krestyaninov, ready to cooperate”’.
‘I refused to do this and left for Tbilisi’.
According to Krestyaninov, the officer demanded that he provide the agency with information about his colleagues, friends and other journalists, but when he refused, he was told that a criminal case would be launched against him.
Krestyaninov, currently staying in Yerevan, claims that he was barred from entering the country due to his profession and the ‘current political climate of Georgia’.
Several Russian journalists and government critics have been denied entry into the country following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
David Frenkel, a reporter for Russian digital outlet Mediazona, was denied entry on 10 March — four days after Russian authorities blocked the outlet for refusing to censor news about the war.
Another prominent journalist, Mikhail Fishman, an anchor on the independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, cited a similar experience on 5 March.
‘I understand that I was not permitted into the country because of who I am and what I do. This is totally clear to me’, Fishman said.