Brighton Festival Review – Luke Harding: Mafia State

24 May


Brighton Dome Studio: Sunday, May 12 2013

Despite the end of the Cold War and the establishment of a so-called democratic system, in many respects the Russian security services still act like the Iron Curtain never fell.

That was the experience of the Guardian’s man in Moscow Luke Harding.

Harding – promoting his book the Mafia State – said he made one crucial ‘mistake’; he sought to write the truth as he saw it about Vladimir Putin and the security services.

The reaction of the state’s henchmen was both predictably intimidating yet at times surprisingly comical.

During this hour-long talk, Harding revealed how he would be put under surveillance when meeting friends, claiming the “pasty-faced” security men were more “keystone cops” than serious operators.

More concerning, however, was the repeated break-ins to the flat in which he lived with his wife and two young children; the point being not to steal anything, but to repeatedly remind them they were being watched.

While being the first Western journalist to be expelled from the country since the end of the Cold War brought him lots of attention, Harding was modest about his journalistic achievements.

The real heroes, he rightly maintained, are the Russian journalists and human rights activists who courageously stand up to Putin and his ruthless regime every day. For them, there is nowhere else to return.


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