The official, who declined to give her name, said she could not give details about the detention of Jaroslaw Wisniewski, a Polish national, at the airport in Khabarovsk, one of the principal cities in Russia's Far East. But the detention comes amid tension over the activities of the Roman Catholic Church in predominantly Orthodox Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church complains that Roman Catholics are poaching converts from among people who traditionally would have been Orthodox adherents.
Spokesmen for the Russian border guard service could not immediately be reached for comment. The Interfax news agency said Wisniewski had arrived in Khabarovsk on a flight from Niigata, Japan.
In recent months, at least three Catholic priests have been forced to leave Russia when their visas were not renewed. The visa denials began after the Catholic Church converted its four "apostolic administrations" in Russia to full-fledged dioceses.
The bishop of one of the new dioceses, Jerzy Mazur, then raised the ire of the Foreign Ministry again by using the Japanese name of Karafuto Prefecture to identify the region in his diocese encompassing the southern part of Sakhalin Island and the disputed Southern Kuril Islands. Russia seized the islands from Japan at the end of World War II. Mazur later was turned back when he tried to enter Russia from abroad.
Also Monday, officials in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don reported that gunmen opened fire on a Catholic church there. Rostov police spokeswoman Olga Kakutkina said unknown gunmen fired on the church early Saturday when nobody was inside. Later in the morning, the church's staff discovered 10 bullet holes in the windows, she said.
Officials at the Rostov parish said they did not believe the incident was anti-Catholic, but rather simple hooliganism. They said the church had not received any threats.