12 October 2011
Luke Harding had been The Guardian correspondent in Moscow for four years when in February 2011 he found himself deported, becoming the first western journalist to be expelled from Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Harding describes his expulsion, and the harassment by the FSB that preceded it, in his new book Mafia State: How One Reporter Became An Enemy Of The Brutal New Russia.
Rights in Russia: How did it happen that you were deported?
Luke Harding: It started four months after I arrived. The spark for all this, the catalyst, was an interview that two colleagues in London did with Boris Berezovsky. In this interview Berezovsky said that he was plotting a Russian revolution and was trying to finance the overthrow of the Putin regime. I had never met him, I scarcely knew who he was, but it was clearly a good story. I phoned the Kremlin and spoke to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s press spokesman, and got a quote from him. The interview was published in The Guardian and my name was the third by-line on a front page story. And then, really immediately after that, very strange things started happening and the FSB kind of fell on me really. There were all sorts of surreal encounters. But the most chilling thing was that the FSB broke into my flat in May 2007 for the first time. [Read more]