Christian Fundamentalists Stranded At Moscow Airport
MOSCOW (AP) _ More than 250 Christian fundamentalists seeking to emigrate to the United States have been stranded at Moscow’s international airport for four days, unable to leave or return to their homes.
Members of the stranded group said on Thursday they obtained what they thought were the necessary documents to leave the country: a Soviet exit visa and a U.S. entry permit.
However, they said Soviet officials were demanding that they also obtain an Israeli stamp in their visas, since that is the only country that allows open immigration from the Soviet Union.
″This is hard to understand″ since the group was scheduled to fly to the United States and take up residence there, said Andrew Levdonsky, one of the stranded fundamentalists.
The group of 259 fundamentalists, mostly Pentecostals, passed through customs checks at Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport, but was stopped at passport control.
Since Monday, the group, including dozens of children, has camped out on benches and on the floor, making do with basic foodstuffs such as bread and milk supplied by the U.S. Embassy.
″We are stuck here, this is like a jail,″ said Pavel Zolnikov. ″Some of the time, they don’t even allow us to use the bathroom.″
Levdonsky said U.S. Embassy officials were trying to get proper documents for them.
Another fundamentalist, Ivan Tanasov, said Soviet officials told them that although they were going to the United States, an Israeli stamp was necessary because that was the only country now accepting Soviet emigres without specific invitations from relatives.
″All of us have sold our belongings, we have given up our homes. We have no place to go,″ Levdonsky said.
The fundamentalists had to give up their passports and citizenship when they were issued Soviet exit visas, group members said.
Tanasov said two groups of Christian fundamentalists left the Soviet Union last week with no problems and no Israeli stamps. He feared that others who want to emigrate will find themselves stranded like himself.