A Russian Apology

KIEV, Ukraine -- U.S. officials said they received a formal apology early today from the Russian Foreign Ministry for the three-hour detainment of two senators and an American delegation at a remote Russian airport on Sunday.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko (L), shakes hands with U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, R-Ind., chairman of the U.S. Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, and Barack Obama, D-Ill., during their meeting in Kiev, Ukraine

"We heard from our embassy that an official of the foreign ministry in Moscow had issued an apology this morning," said Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is making his first international trip as a senator, was detained with Lugar at the Russian city of Perm after visiting a nuclear weapons destruction site. The detainment, while peaceful, sparked outrage from the U.S. ambassador to Russia, who received the formal apology in Moscow.

Ranking authorities in the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret about the incident Monday, U.S. officials said, and agreed to sit down with the United States to discuss the larger issue of border security and a reoccurring lack of cooperation with visiting government delegations. Military officials said Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) also was briefly detained Sunday when trying to leave Russia.

Lugar, who has traveled to Russia at least once a year for more than a decade of working on nuclear disarmament, said he has been detained before. He said he was befuddled why such incidents keep occurring.

"I have had three other incidents in 10 years," Lugar said. "You attempt to be patient wait out what the problem is until you get a resolution"

After being permitted to leave Russia, Lugar and Obama arrived in Ukraine to continue their weeklong European tour. The senators met with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and other dignitaries today in Kiev.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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