Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, a columnist and editorial board member at The Washington Times, was surprised to learn the news he was No. 467 on the list of “500 Americans” that Russia has banned from entering the country in response to U.S. sanctions.
Mr. Shapiro, who previously served as a senior advisor of the United States Agency for Global Media, which oversees Voice of America and Radio Free Europe, said a former colleague called him Friday to congratulate him for being on the list of blackballed U.S. officials, lawmakers, comedians and fellow journalists.
“I was very surprised, but considering the tone of my columns and the positions I’ve taken against Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, I probably shouldn’t have been,” Mr. Shapiro said. “Some of them are very strong.”
Mr. Shapiro found himself lumped in with former President Barack Obama, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, dozens of members of the House, and some members of the U.S. Senate were among those banned.
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the ban was enacted “in a response to the regularly anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the Joe Biden administration.”
The ministry accused the people on the list of spreading “Russophobia”, and supplying Ukraine with arms.
Mr. Shapiro has been a vocal critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He also has targeted Moscow’s arrests of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained in March and charged with spying, and Paul Whelan, the former United States Marine who was detained in 2018 and later sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges.
In a column last year, Mr. Shapiro warned the Kremlin is injecting the pro-war “Z” symbol into the nation’s culture, making it the “new Swastika.”
“Like the Russian pro-invasion Z, the infamous SS symbol used by the Nazi Schutzstaffel — two ancient runes that resemble lightning bolts—also stands for victory,” he wrote at the time.
Mr. Shapiro said the ban “might be personal.”
He said he spent a couple of years conducting interviews with Russian officials in the Washington embassy when he first started working for The Washington Times in 2013.
“It is possible they have been tracking my stories since then and aren’t very pleased with the editorial tone of my columns which avidly support Ukranian independence and denounce Russia war crimes,” he said.
“It could also be in response to a column I wrote that argued an attack on one journalist – Evan Gershkovich – was a declaration of war against all journalists,” he said. “That column was a salute to all the Russian journalists who have called for Evan’s release and had the courage to denounce war crimes in Ukraine.”
Whatever the case, Mr. Shapiro said he received some sage advice from a couple of journalism peers – David Satter, an author and leading commentator on Russia who he considers a mentor, and Luke Harding, a foreign correspondent with The Guardian.
Both of them have been expelled from Russia, and both of them celebrated the news.
“Congratulations, welcome to the club,” Mr. Satter said in a note to Mr. Shapiro. “Wear it like a badge of honor. It means you’re getting somewhere.”
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