When the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Luke Harding tried to re-enter Moscow this weekend he found himself detained at the city’s airport and put on the next flight back to London.  His valid visa was annulled and his passport only returned to him when he was onboard the aircraft.  A border guard reportedly told him “For you Russia is closed.”  Harding had been in the UK finishing a book about Wikileaks co-authored with investigations editor David Leigh.

 

The book “Wikileaks Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy” has been dubbed the “first full scale biography” of Assange and the whistle blowing website.

 

In a tweet http://twitter.com/#!/lukeharding1968 Harding suggested his work on the leaked cables and the assessment of Russia as a “virtual mafia state” under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, may have prompted the expulsion.

 

The book has also angered Assange who is reportedly seeking legal action over the publication of  "malicious libels".

 

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief, Guardian News & Media said:

 

“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. Russia's treatment of journalists - both domestic and foreign - is a cause of great concern. We are attempting to establish further details, and are in contact with the Foreign Office.”

 

Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, is travelling to London next week on his first official bilateral visit to the UK.  Trade relations between the countries are strong but political relations have been strained ever since Russia refused to extradite the man whom Britain wanted to put on trial for the fatal poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvenenko.  It is hard to imagine the expulsion of Harding will be ignored.

 

According to the Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/feb/07/guardian-moscow-correspondent-expelled-from-russia “Harding's removal is thought to be the first of a British staff journalist from the country since the end of cold war.” 

 

This related article details the “history of bad relations with the Western media.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/feb/07/british-journalists-frozen-out-of-russia

Nearly all of those expelled in recent years had published books in one way or another offensive to the Kremlin.