Enemy of the regime

Journalist Luke Harding’s ‘Mafia State’ is a probing, sobering view of a powerful – and dysfunctional – Russia

Mafia State: How One Reporter Became an Enemy of the Brutal New Russia, by Luke Harding, Guardian Books £8.99, 310 pages

Three months after Luke Harding took up his post as the Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, his byline appeared on an interview with the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who called for the overthrow of Vladimir Putin’s regime. Fifteen days later, Harding found his flat had been broken into. Nothing had been taken, but a window beside his six-year-old son’s bed was left open, offering a chilling 10-storey drop. So began the FSB’s campaign of harassment.

Acutely aware of the murders of critical Russian journalists, Harding endured bugging, stalking and threatening meetings with FSB officials before finally being expelled in 2011. His four years spent reporting on Russia’s corruption, censorship and democratic illegitimacy is particularly resonant given this month’s re-election of Putin.

Mafia State is a probing, sobering view of a powerful – and dysfunctional – nation.

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