Anorak News | Moscow Cracks Down On Trourists: Roxana Contreras Stuck In Russia

Moscow Cracks Down On Trourists: Roxana Contreras Stuck In Russia

by | 27th, August 2007

russian-presidents.jpgFIRST they came for the journalists. Then they came for the oligarchs. Now the Russian authorities seem to be cracking down on another subversive element: tourists.

University of Missouri student Roxana Contreras has been stuck in Russia under house arrest for almost three months, awaiting trial for the heinous crime of buying $20 worth of Soviet trinkets from a street vendor and then attempting to fly home.

Since the collapse of the USSR, Soviet flags, badges, uniforms, belts and knickknacks have been a regular sight in tourist traps across Russia. But according to the New York Times, Russian law prohibits the removal of objects over 50 years old that can be deemed “a cultural treasure”.

The 29-year-old Ms. Contreras, like most visitors to Russia, had no idea about the law. “If they sell them in the street, how can it be illegal?” she asked the Times in a telephone interview from an apartment she is renting while she awaits trial.

Contreras was stopped by customs officials at Voronezh Airport on June 14 after a three-day stop in Voronezh, about 350 miles southeast of Moscow. A search of her bag revealed six medals, three ruble bills and a ruble coin. She was arrested and charged with smuggling treasures out of the country.

Nadezhda A. Osennyaya, the press secretary of the Voronezh region customs department, told the New York Times: “We understand that she didn’t know, but that’s her problem…We have a saying: Lack of knowledge does not free one from responsibility.”

Small comfort for Contreras, a Chilean national, who is pursuing a PhD in neurodynamics at the University of Missouri. Her thesis adviser Dr. Sonya Bahar told Fox News that Voronezh is a hotbed of Russian nationalism: “There have been a few foreign students murdered … so I’m very worried about this young woman living by herself in a very dangerous city. She’s told me she can’t go out at night because there are “Skin Heads” around her apartment. For a lot of reason, we’re all very, very frightened for her safety.”

Posted: 27th, August 2007 | In: Reviews Comment (1) | TrackBack | Permalink