UK reporter expelled from Russia

2011-02-08 12:48
London - Britain's Guardian newspaper says its Moscow correspondent has been expelled from Russia after he used WikiLeaks' cables to report on allegations that Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin had become a "virtual mafia state".

Luke Harding, who had been back in London for two months to write a book on WikiLeaks, was refused entry by Russian authorities when he tried to return to Moscow last weekend, the paper's editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said on Monday.

Harding's Russian visa was revoked and he was put on the next flight back to London after being held in a detention cell for 45 minutes, The Guardian said. No explanation of the decision was offered to the journalist, the newspaper said in a statement, adding that it was trying to establish further details.

"This is clearly a very troubling development with serious implications for press freedom, and it is worrying that the Russian government should now kick out reporters of whom they disapprove," Rusbridger said.

Britain's Foreign Office said Foreign Secretary William Hague had been in contact with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to seek clarity on the expulsion.

"We are awaiting a reply," a spokesperson said.

Final straw

Harding had previously been detained in April 2010 in Ingushetia after the visited the Caucasus region, according to the newspaper.

The journalist said on Twitter late on Monday: "The Russians have been unhappy with my reporting for a while. But it seems WikiLeaks may have been the final straw."

The Guardian published an article by Harding on December 1 in which he quoted leaked US diplomatic cables as saying Russia is a corrupt autocracy cantered on the leadership of Putin.

Expulsions of journalists were more frequent during the Cold War.

In one of the most prominent cases, American journalist Nicholas Daniloff was arrested in Moscow in September 1986 on charges of espionage and held for 13 days. The US denied he was a spy.

Daniloff was released at the same time as the US released Gennady Zakharov, a Soviet official at the United Nations who had pleaded guilty to espionage.

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