Expelled British reporter to quit Russia in May

16th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The British reporter who was briefly expelled from Russia said Wednesday that problems with the authorities meant that his spell in Moscow would end in May.

Guardian correspondent Luke Harding was barred from re-entering Russia and had his visa revoked without an explanation earlier this month.

He returned to Moscow last weekend after the incident was reported by his newspaper and then raised with his Russian counterpart by Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Harding reported from London on US cables released by WikiLeaks that included a string of damaging allegations about links between top Russian officials and big business.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Harding had also received official warnings after illegally reporting from parts of the North Caucasus where Russian troops are conducting so-called counter-terrorist operations.

Harding said Wednesday that he had only been issued a temporary new visa and accreditation that are due to expire at the end of May.

"What happened with my deportation was a PR catastrophe, but essentially, they want to get rid of me," Harding told AFP.

"What they have said it that you can apply for another visa in May if you want to, but they won't say whether I will get a visa. And when I ask why they won't give me a normal one-year accreditation, they won't answer that."

Foreign correspondents working in Moscow are issued one-year visas and accreditations that are renewed automatically by the foreign ministry without the reporters having to leave the country.

Harding said that his editors would name his Moscow replacement shortly.

The Guardian has said that the incident was believed to be the first removal of a British staff journalist from the country since the end of the Cold War.

© 2011 AFP

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