UPDATED, 4:20 PM: Russia has given its side of the story involving NBCU exec Jeff Shell not being allowed into the country. State-owned news agency TASS quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying Shell has been put on a “stop list” for steering anti-Russian propaganda. “The person in question stands at the head of a broadcasting board, a government agency that governs the operations of US propagandist radio stations like the Voice of America and Radio Liberty,” the ministry said, per TASS. “The cause of the denial is that Jeff Shell was placed on the stop list recently. [The] Russian side has said on a number of occasions it is extending the list in response to the introductions of Washington’s sanctions against Russian officials under various highly contrived pretexts. For instance, the Barack Obama Administration has already closed access to the US territory to 70 Russian representatives, high-rank officials among them, on the pretext of the crisis in Ukraine.”
PREVIOUSLY, 7 AM: Jeff Shell, the chairman of NBCUniversal’s Filmed Entertainment Division, was denied entry into Russia last night. After being detained several hours, he was escorted out of the country and onto a flight.
Shell, also chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, told The New York Times that he was pulled out of the line while going through immigration at Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport on a flight from Prague. “I was then taken to a small room and left alone for about a half-hour before someone came back with a document in Russian that they wanted me to sign,” Shell told the newspaper. He refused, and was barred from the country, escorted by an armed guard. Shell said he was “embarrassed” by the spectacle. The studio had no comment.
The Broadcasting Board Of Governors laid out more details on its blog, noting that “Shell was denied entry into the country despite having a valid passport and Russian visa, and subsequently detained in a locked room for several hours, before being accompanied by Russian security officials to board a flight to Amsterdam. No explanation has yet been given to Shell, or the BBG, for his detention….Shell told colleagues with whom he was traveling that airport security authorities told him the denial of entry into Russia has a permanent status and is ‘a life-time ban.'” The BBG met with the U.S. ambassador John Tefft in Moscow to discuss Shell’s unceremonious treatment and pressed for aid to clarify and rectify the matter.
Universal, like every other studio, does theatrical business in Russia — the studio released Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft, and aside from China, Russia was the other standout territory for a film that flopped in the U.S. — but it wasn’t immediately clear what the studio was doing about its chief executive being undeservedly placed on some watch list.