Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Guardian journalist back in situ

This time last week a full scale row was brewing over the Guardian journalist Luke Harding's apparent 'expulsion' from Russia.  Labour MP Chris Bryant even called for the Kremlin's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, to be denied entry to Britain over the episode.

This afternoon Lavrov delivered a speech at the London School of Economics after meeting William Hague at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office .  His visit attracted some protests from Russian opposition activists, who attempted to pass on a series of symbolic 'gifts' for President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin.

So why has everything gone quiet on the Harding affair?  Quite simple really.  The journalist is back in situ in Moscow.  He reentered the country just a week after being refused entry at Domodedovo Airport.  He uses his Twitter account to suggest that colleagues pursue his "case" at Lavrov's press conference.  A week's enforced leave, though, does not make a compelling story or a diplomatic incident.

Whatever Russia's reasons for denying Harding entry, it allowed him to sort out the bureaucracy and return to work quickly.  That enabled the two foreign ministers to get on with creating "a patient, steady improvement in relations" between the UK and Russia, with fewer distractions.  Good sense prevailed and the Guardian enjoyed a free publicity coup.

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