Russia does a U-turn on British scribe’s deportation

February 10th, 2011 - 9:05 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 10 (IANS) Making a U-turn on its earlier stand on the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent Luke Harding’s deportation, the Russian foreign ministry has offered visa extension to carry on reporting if the newspaper wanted him to.The step has come just before a rare visit by Russia’s foreign minister to Britain and follows widespread criticism from British politicians of the journalist’s removal, the Guardian reported.

According to the Russian foreign ministry’s spokesman Alexander Lukashevich, the country was ready to issue a visa so Harding could “continue his activity for the amount of time his tenure in Russia has been extended”.

On Tuesday, Harding was told he would only be allowed to return to Russia until his visa expired at the end of May — with the foreign ministry blaming the journalist for failing to take a press card with him before going abroad.

Last weekend Harding was deported when he returned to Russia after a stint in London reporting on the WikiLeaks cables, becoming the first journalist employed by a newspaper or broadcaster to be kicked out of the country since the end of the cold war.

In December, the Guardian published an article by Harding, based on the contents of the leaked US diplomatic cables, which reported that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was likely to have known about the planned assassination of Alexander Litvinenko because of his “attention to detail”.

“We welcome the offer from the Russian foreign ministry to give our Moscow correspondent, Luke Harding, a new visa so he may continue to work in Russia. Luke and the Guardian are now considering the offer very carefully,” the Guardian stated in response to Russian offer.

The row has threatened to overshadow the visit of Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, who is due in Britain for a diplomatic visit early next week.

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