Russia raises curtain for ABC News

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Two years after being effectively frozen out by Russian officials, ABC News said it will send a correspondent to its Moscow bureau.

The hiring of Clarissa Ward puts an end to a two-year saga that started in summer 2005, when “Nightline” aired a freelancer’s interview with Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev. The Russian government, which regards Basayev as their Osama bin Laden, struck out against ABC News. Before the interview aired, the network was told by Russia that it would get nothing from the government, including accreditation as foreign journalists.

The ban affected only ABC News’ correspondents, who weren’t permitted to enter the country. The bureau continued to function with local staff members. The bureau opened in 1963, but during its off-period the network voiced material elsewhere or used reports from networks it has content-sharing deals with like the BBC.

ABC News had spent the past two years negotiating with the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow and in Washington. Russia softened its position and eventually agreed to approve visas for ABC News correspondents.

ABC News foreign editor Chuck Lustig said that the network will cover the country as aggressively now as it did before it was denied visas.

Ward until recently was a Beirut-based correspondent covering the Mideast for the Fox News Channel. Among the stories she’s covered are the U.S. troop surge in Iraq and the death of Saddam Hussein.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter