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British Journalist Expelled From Russia

February 8, 2011

In Russia, a British journalist from the Guardian newspaper was expelled from the country after reporting claims in the leaked cables that Russia had become a “mafia state,” the paper said Monday.

Luke Harding, the paper’s Moscow correspondent, was refused entry into Russia as he tried to return to the Russian capital over the weekend following two months in London reporting on the contents of cables, which Wikileaks had given to the Guardian.

Upon checking his passport, Russian officials declined to allow Mr. Harding to enter the country.  After spending 45 minutes in an airport cell, Harding was returned to Britain on the next available flight without being given a specific reason for the decision, the Guardian reported.

“I didn’t go out to Russia with any particular agenda and I’m sad to leave under these circumstances,” said Harding, who coauthored a book entitled “WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy”.

“But I do not think journalists can accept self-censorship,” the Guardian quoted him as saying.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief for the Guardian, called the expulsion “a very troubling development.”

“It is worrying that the Russian government should now kick out reporters of whom they disapprove,” he told the AFP news agency.

The expulsion follows Harding’s reporting in December on assessments of Russia based on the U.S. cables, which included a series of embarrassing allegations about the ties between top Russian officials, oligarchs and organized crime.

One Spanish prosecutor was quoted as calling Russia a “mafia state”, while a top U.S. official was cited questioning whether Prime Minister Vladimir Putin knew ahead of time about a plot to assassinate dissident Alexander Litvinenko.

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