FULLY BOOKED Russia – A mafia state?

Talk October 26, 2011 7:00 PM


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In 2007 Luke Harding arrived in Moscow to take up a new job as a correspondent for The Guardian. Not long after, mysterious agents from Russia’s Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, broke into his flat. He was followed, bugged, and even summoned to Lefortovo, the FSB’s notorious prison.

The break-in was the beginning of a psychological war against the journalist and his family that burst into the open in 2011 when he was expelled from Moscow for reporting allegations that under Vladimir Putin the country had become a “virtual mafia state”.

The first western reporter to be deported from Russia since the days of the Cold War, Luke Harding has written about his run-in with the new Russia in his recently published book, Mafia State. It includes unpublished material from confidential US diplomatic cables, published by WikiLeaks last year, that described Russia as a “virtual mafia state”.

Luke Harding will be joined by a panel at the Frontline Club to discuss his experiences as The Guardian‘s Moscow correspondent and what they tell us about Russia today.

Chaired by James Meek, writer and reporter. He has reported for the Guardian since 1985, between 1991 and 1999 from the former USSR. In 2004 his reporting from Iraq and about Guantanamo Bay won a number of awards, including Britain’s Foreign Reporter of the Year award. He is the author of two collections of short stories and four novels, most recently We Are Now Beginning Our Descent.


Luke Harding, the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent. He was previously the Guardian’s South Asia correspondent in New Delhi, and has reported for the paper from Afghanistan and Iraq. Author of Mafia State: How one reporter became an enemy of the brutal new Russia and the co-author of WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s war on secrecy.

Angus Roxburgh, author and renowned journalist, he was the Sunday Times Moscow correspondent in the mid-1980s and the BBC’s Moscow correspondent during the Yeltsin years. He is the author of The Second Russian Revolution, Pravda: Inside the Soviet Press Machine and most recently The Strongman: Vladimir Putin and the Struggle for Russia.

Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist, co-founder of the secret services watchdog website Agentura.ru and co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB.

Susan Richards, a non-executive director and founder of Open Democracy and a specialist on Russian affairs. She is the author of two books; Epics of Everyday Life, about the lives of ordinary Russians in the transition from communism and Lost & Found in Russia: Encounters in the Deep Heartland, which covers the period 1992-2008.