Guardian correspondent expelled from Russia

MOSCOW/LONDON: Russia has expelled the Moscow correspondent for British newspaper The Guardian, the publication said on Tuesday, but the reason was not immediately clear.

Correspondent Luke Harding had recently been reporting on WikiLeaks cables that alleged that Russia had become a "virtual mafia state" under the rule of Vladimir Putin. But it was not known if this was the cause of the expulsion.

According to The Guardian, Harding had flown back to Moscow this weekend after a two-month stint reporting on the contents of the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables from London, but was refused entry when his passport was checked on his arrival.

The journalist reportedly waited 45 minutes in an airport cell before he was sent back to Britain on the first available plane. His visa had been annulled and his passport was only returned to him after taking his seat.

"For you, Russia is closed," an airport security official working for the Federal Border Service allegedly told Harding. The journalist was not told any reason in what is believed to be the first expulsion of a British staff journalist from Russia since the end of the cold war.

"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," said Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor-in-chief. "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."


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