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Russia apologizes to Norwegian journalists held on Olympic trip

Reuters

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia apologized on Wednesday to two foreign journalists who were repeatedly questioned and detained by police during a trip to report on the 2014 Winter Olympics preparations in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Norwegian broadcaster TV2, the country's official games broadcaster, said its journalists Oeystein Bogen and Aage Aune had been questioned, detained and searched by police who claimed that one of them had been using drugs.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters that local law enforcement officials abused their posts in the incidents last week, leading to "a series of unwarranted actions towards the citizens of Norway".

"In this regard we apologies to Mr Bogen and Mr Aune. The current situation will undoubtedly be worked out in detail and those guilty will receive the corresponding punishment.

"We would like to assure you that the executive authorities of the Russian Federation will take all necessary measures to avoid the repetition of similar cases in the future," it said.

Russia is spending more than $50 billion on preparations for the 2014 Games. President Vladimir Putin wants to use the Winter Olympics to show to the world a modern face of Russia more than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

A statement by Human Rights Watch said the journalists had been detained several times travelling in and out of the Sochi region, which borders the volatile North Caucasus.

One of them was forced to drive to a local drug clinic after officers claimed he might be on narcotics. This incident ended only when another officer arrived at the center saying there had been a 'misunderstanding', HRW said.

Russia said that a technical mistake had provided false information about the journalists to law enforcement officials.

Russia ranks 148th out of 179 countries on the World Press Freedom index compiled by the journalist watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

(Reporting By Thomas Grove; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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