Russia relents on World Cup visa for German journalist

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2017 file photo Hajo Seppelt, journalist for the German ARD Television, poses for photographer on the side line of the International Olympic Committee, IOC, Executive Board meeting, in Lausanne, Switzerland. German officials called Saturday on the global soccer federation FIFA to intervene after the journalist who exposed systematic doping in Russian athletics was denied entry to Russia to report on the upcoming World Cup. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

BERLIN — Germany's foreign minister says Russia has granted entry to the World Cup for a German journalist who exposed systematic doping in Russian athletics, reversing a decision last week that angered German officials.

However, Hajo Seppelt will face questioning if he goes to the tournament, Russian law enforcement said on Tuesday.

German public broadcaster ARD said Seppelt's visa to report on the World Cup was declared invalid last week on the grounds that he was on a list of people who are "persona non grata." Officials including Foreign Minister Heiko Maas publicly pressed Russia to reconsider.

On Tuesday, Maas tweeted: "Russian side has just informed us that @hajoseppelt can enter the country at least for the World Cup. Still pushing for free reporting."

The argument over Seppelt's visa came ahead of a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on Friday between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Investigative Committee, a major Russian law enforcement agency, said in a statement it will insist on Seppelt being questioned about his reporting if he travels to Russia.

That's part of a Russian investigation into former doping laboratory director and whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov. The Investigative Committee alleges Rodchenkov invented his testimony about doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and a government-run cover-up. Instead, it has accused him of tricking clean Russian athletes into taking banned substances.

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