Nyet to world walk

British explorer Karl Bushby and his companion, who were arrested after entering Russia without a visa, are now facing deportation:

A Russian court on Friday ordered the deportation of a British adventurer for illegally crossing into Russia via the frozen Bering Straits, dealing a potentially fatal blow to the ex-paratrooper’s dream of walking around the world.

But the story seems to have changed slightly, journalists being crap at reporting anything properly an all that.  Originally it was reported that they did not have the right paperwork, but now it appears:

Although the two men possessed valid business visas they did not complete proper formalities on arrival on April 1.

This sounds like the requirement to register your visa within 3 days of arrival at an OVIR office, which is a far more lengthy and challenging task than walking around the world.  Most people either get their hotel to do it for them, or if they are not staying in a hotel, bribe one of the nearby hotels to do it for you anyway.  I’ve known quite a few people who didn’t bother to do this at all, and on short trips to Moscow you could probably get away with it.  Why they didn’t register is a bit of a mystery, unless they couldn’t physically get to an OVIR office or hotel within three days of arriving, which begs the question which immigration office they passed through.

They were also not smart in what they decided to carry with them:

Their detention caused a stir in Russia, particularly as they were carrying a satellite navigation device, topographical maps and a loaded firearm – which they explained was for defence against polar bears.

Foreigners visiting the sparsely populated and militarily sensitive Chukotka region are also required to possess special permits.

So not only do they make a pig’s ear of their paperwork, they also carry maps and a gun into a militarily sensitive area.  This is Russia, for goodness sake!  They’re lucky they are only facing deportation.  How impressed would British authorities be to find a Russian wandering around Faslane without proper immigration documents, a gun, and a load of maps?  Not very, let me tell you.

They were not arrested, but the authorities confiscated their equipment, while an escape from the village of Lavrentiya, where the trial took place, was in any case unlikely. Bushby told AFP the village was “very, very grim” and surrounded by an area looking “almost like a war zone.”

Heh!  That could be anywhere, mate!  What were you expecting, bears playing accordions in the street?

“It kind of baffles me,” Keith Bushby said. “I don’t think Siberia gets a good press anyway. It brings all sorts of connotations to mind. If they’d just allowed him to carry on with his walk, it would have allowed in a chink of light.”

Well, he’s right, Siberia does not get a good press and if he was allowed to carry on, it would have looked good.  However, this assumes one important thing:  that Russians give a damn what anyone thinks of Siberia, and they don’t.  In fact, the Russian authorities care little for public opinion, their own or that of foreigners.  Knowing in advance Siberia’s reputation for erm, uncompromising regulations, I find it astonishing that the two men acted as they did.  Even I, in my most daft and naive trip to Russia, knew that you get your paperwork in order as you can’t appeal to the good nature of Russian authorities for leniency.  Anyone who does not understand this should not be attempting to visit Russia at all.

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