GOP Sen. Ron Johnson barred from entering Russia

Posted at 8:47 AM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 09:47:48-04

(CNN) -- US Sen. Ron Johnson has been denied entry into Russia.

The Wisconsin Republican says his visa was rejected, a charge the Russians denied, saying he did not apply for a visa "but presented everything as if he had been refused after applying."

Johnson's denied entry to Russia comes amid heightened tensions between the two countries over issues including Russia's annexation of Crimea, its 2016 election interference and the attempted poisoning of an alleged Russian spyin the United Kingdom.

There has also been military escalation after the US withdrew from a nuclear treaty with Russiaearlier this month and tested a new non-nuclear missile, leading Russia to test fire nuclear-capable missiles near NATO's borders.

"Working with Ambassador (Jon) Huntsman, I had hoped direct dialogue with Russian parliamentarians could help set the stage for better future relations between our two nations. Unfortunately, Russian officials continue to play diplomatic games with this sincere effort and have denied me entrance to Russia," the Wisconsin Republican said in a statement Monday.

Johnson called it a "petty affront" but vowed to "continue to advocate a strong and resolute response to Russian aggression — and frank dialogue when possible."

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms Johnson is on an official list barring entry to the country, saying Tuesday he did not apply for a visa "but presented everything as if he had been refused after applying."

RIA-Novosti quoted the Russian MFA's Information and Press Department as calling Johnson's claim of visa rejection "information manipulation."

The MFA told RIA-Novosti that Johnson was on a "stop list" in response to measures by Washington. RIA-Novosti described Johnson as supporting "anti-Russian" legislation.

The Russian Embassy in Washington also said in a tweet Monday that Johnson "did not apply for a visa at our Embassy and did not inform about his plans to visit."

"Johnson's groundless accusations against Russia leave no doubts -- he is not ready for a dialogue, but a confrontation," the embassy's statement on Twitter continued.

The US State Department spokesperson told CNN in a statement they are aware of Johnson's statement.

"As Senator Johnson said, he had hoped to work with Ambassador Huntsman and Russian parliamentarians to set the stage for better future relations between our countries. These people-to-people relationships are the key to building cooperation and discovering common ground," the spokesperson said.

In efforts to restore more normal relations with Moscow, President Donald Trump has suggested reinstating Russia into the G7 and inviting the country to the summit next year.

Johnson, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation,visited Russia last yearalong with a group of Republican senators.

In 2014, Russia sanctioned a list of US officials and lawmakers, in response to the US imposing sanctions for Russia's annexation moves.

In a separate incident, two US Democratic lawmakers were barred this month from entering Israel for their support of the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement, after Trump encouraged the move. Israel's decision against Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota marked a remarkable step both by Trump and his ally, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to punish political opponents.

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