A group of Israeli businessmen were expelled from Russia this week after being detained at a Moscow airport for 12 hours, the Times of Israel reported citing a television report on Monday.
The eight Israelis, representatives of large companies based in the Middle East country, had arrived in Russia for meetings with local businessmen, according to TV station Channel 12.
But upon arriving in Moscow late on Saturday night, they were escorted aside by airport security. The eight were told they cannot conduct business in Russia without work permits, the report said. It did not name the businessmen or who they represented.
After a 12-hour detention overnight, the group was placed on a plane and deported to Israel. Members of the business delegation who were supposed to join the group canceled their flights for fear of being deported as well.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry confirmed the arrests and said it had been in contact with the Israeli delegation.
“We’re aware of the incident. The consul in Moscow was in touch with them to help them, but, unfortunately, the Russian authorities decided not to let them in,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lior Haiat.
There was no immediate response from Moscow.
According to the report, members of the group have regularly conducted business negotiations in the country in the past and had never previously encountered a demand for a work visa.
The deportation came as Russia is considering the appeal of an Israeli-American backpacker who was arrested at a Moscow airport and later slapped with a seven-year-plus prison sentence for a drug offense.
Naama Issachar was arrested in April after a small amount of marijuana was found in her luggage during a stopover in Moscow, while returning to Israel from India. She was sentenced in October to seven and a half years in prison, despite the fact that the offense generally carries only a fine or short jail term.
Some Israelis have alleged that the long sentence was politically motivated.