Luke Harding

Luke Daniel Harding is a British journalist who is a foreign correspondent for The Guardian. He was based in Russia for The Guardian from 2007 until, returning from a stay in the UK on 5 February 2011, he was refused re-entry to Russia and deported the same day.[1] The Guardian said his expulsion was linked with his critical articles on Russia,[2] a claim denied by the Russian government. After the reversal of the decision on 9 February and the granting of a short-term visa, Harding chose not to seek a further visa extension.[2] His 2011 book Mafia State discusses his experience in Russia and the political system under Vladimir Putin, which he describes as a mafia state.

Luke Harding
EducationUniversity College, Oxford (BA)

Early life and career

Harding graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma from UWC Atlantic College, South Wales and studied English at University College, Oxford. While there he edited the student newspaper Cherwell. He worked for The Sunday Correspondent, the Evening Argus in Brighton and then the Daily Mail before joining The Guardian in 1996.[3]

He has lived in and reported from Delhi, Berlin, and Moscow, and has covered wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.[4] In 2014 he was the recipient of the James Cameron prize for his work on Russia, Ukraine, WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden.[5]

In 2007, The Guardian retracted one of his articles for containing text "substantially similar to paragraphs" in another "article, published in May, in the Exile".[6]

Russian expulsion

In February 2011, Harding was refused re-entry into Russia. According to Harding, this made him the first foreign journalist to be expelled from Russia since the end of the Cold War. The Guardian said his expulsion was linked with his unflattering coverage of Russia, including speculation about Vladimir Putin's wealth and Putin's knowledge of the London assassination of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.[2] The director of Index on Censorship, John Kampfner, said "The Russian government's treatment of Luke Harding is petty and vindictive, and evidence – if more was needed – of the poor state of free expression in that country."[7] Elsa Vidal, head of the European and Central Asia desk at the media freedom watchdog, was quoted in The Washington Post as saying: "This is a serious and shocking step, unprecedented since the Cold War [...] It's an attempt to force correspondents working for foreign media in Moscow to engage in self-censorship."[8]

However, on the following day, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov explained at a press conference that no visa cancellation had taken place and the problem had been caused by the fact that Harding's visa had expired, a statement disputed by Harding due to his visa being valid until May of that year.[9] According to Lavrov, Harding had requested an exceptional visa extension until May which was approved. Lavrov also added that Harding had previously broken the rules of his press accreditation by visiting the area of counter-terrorism operations without informing the relevant security authorities.[10]

The expulsion preceded a visit to Britain by Lavrov, which led to suggestions from Labour MP Chris Bryant that the British government might rescind Lavrov's invitation.[11] On 9 February, Russia reversed the decision not to re-admit him[2] although it only granted him a short term visa. Harding chose not to seek a further visa and returned to the UK in February. Harding has said that during his time in Russia he was the subject of largely psychological harassment by the Federal Security Service, whom he alleges were unhappy at the stories he wrote.[12]


In 2011, a book written by Harding and David Leigh was published by Vintage Books in the US and Guardian Faber in the UK.[13] WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy was made into a Hollywood film, The Fifth Estate (2013). WikiLeaks condemned the film, stating that its depiction of Assange rushing to publication with no redactions was false.

On November 27, 2018, Harding co-authored a piece for The Guardian claiming that Julian Assange and Paul Manafort met several times at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2013, 2015, and 2016.[14] Commentators including Preet Bharara and Benjamin Wittes stated that they would be interested in seeing more evidence, because the sources in Harding's piece were described only as "sources". Manafort and Assange both denied ever having met, and Assange threatened legal action against The Guardian.[15]

In The Washington Post, Paul Farhi noted that, despite The Guardian promoting Harding's story as "a bombshell", it could turn out to be nothing but "a dud", and that the British paper has only defended the story "half-heartedly" since critics started voicing their skepticism. According to Farhi, "No other news organization has been able to corroborate the Guardian’s reporting".[16] The article was described as possibly journalism's biggest scoop of the year, or its biggest blunder.[15]

According to Glenn Greenwald, "if Paul Manafort visited Assange at the Embassy, there would be ample amounts of video and other photographic proof demonstrating that this happened. The Guardian provides none of that."[17] Likewise, President Obama’s former national security aide Tommy Vietor said that "If these meetings happened, British intelligence would almost certainly have video of him entering and exiting."[17]

Edward Snowden

Harding's book on Edward Snowden, The Snowden Files (2014), received a glowing review from The New York Times's Michiko Kakutani,[18] who noted that it “reads like a le Carré novel crossed with something by Kafka. . A fast-paced, almost novelistic narrative. . .. [The book] gives readers . . a succinct overview of the momentous events of the past year. . . . Leave[s] readers with an acute understanding of the serious issues involved”. Additionally, it received positive reviews from several other major publications, including The Guardian,[19] the London Review of Books,[20] and the Washington Post,[21] as well as a mixed review from The Daily Telegraph's David Blair.[22] It was adapted into a film, Snowden, directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, released in September 2016.

Alexander Litvinenko

In 2016, Harding published A Very Expensive Poison, an account of the murder of the Russian ex-KGB whistle-blower and outspoken Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko. The book garnered a positive response from reviewers, including from the Spectator,[23] Guardian,[24] Times,[25] and London Review of Books;[26] Robert Fox, writing for the Evening Standard called it 'one of the best political thrillers [he had] come across in years'.[27] Lucy Prebble has adapted the book for the stage, with the play due to première in The Old Vic theatre, London in 2018.[28]

Donald Trump and Russia

In November 2017, Harding published Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win on the subject of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections. The book examines the dossier by former British spy Christopher Steele, and alleges that Trump was the subject of at least five years of "cultivation" by Soviet/Russian intelligence services prior to his election, and possibly by the KGB as soon as 1987.[29][30]


  • The Liar: Fall of Jonathan Aitken, Penguin Books (1997), co-written with David Leigh and David Pallister. An account of how the British politician Jonathan Aitken sued the Guardian newspaper over sleaze allegations and was jailed for perjury.
  • WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy, Guardian Books (1 February 2011), ISBN 978-0-85265-239-8, co-written with David Leigh. A biography of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange's War on Secrecy and Daniel Domscheit-Berg's WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website was adapted into a screenplay by Josh Singer, and became the film, The Fifth Estate. Co-produced by DreamWorks and Participant Media, it was directed by Bill Condon and starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Brühl. It was released on 11 October 2013 in the UK and 18 October 2013 in the US.[31]
  • Mafia State: How One Reporter Became An Enemy Of The Brutal New Russiaa, Random House (NY, 22 September 2011), ISBN 978-0-85265-247-3; Guardian Books (UK, 29 September 2011), ISBN 978-0-85265-247-3. An account of his experience in Russia and interactions with the FSB. The title "mafia state" comes from one of the American diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.[32]
  • Libya: Murder in Benghazi and the Fall of Gaddafi (20 October 2012), co-written with Martin Chulov. Short e-book, account of the moment of Gaddafi's capture and the current state of Libya.[33]
  • The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World's Most Wanted Man, Vintage Books (NY, 7 February 2014), ISBN 978-0804173520; Guardian Faber Publishing (UK, 6 February 2014), ISBN 978-1783350353. Harding tells Edward Snowden's story from the day he left his girlfriend in Honolulu carrying a hard drive full of secrets, to the weeks of his secret-spilling in Hong Kong, to his battle for asylum and his exile in Moscow.
  • A Very Expensive Poison: the Definitive Story of the Murder of Litvinenko is published in March 2016 by Guardian Faber in the UK. ISBN 978-1783350933.
  • Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Vintage. 2017. ISBN 978-0525562511. (An excerpt titled "The Hidden History of Trump’s First Trip to Moscow." was published by Politico on November 19, 2017.)


^a Published in the US as Expelled


  1. Luke Harding (23 September 2011). "Enemy of the state", The Guardian.
  2. Dan Sabbagh (9 February 2011). "Russia U-turns over Guardian journalist's deportation", The Guardian'.'
  3. "Luke Harding". Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. Retrieved 16 May 2018.
  4. Luke Harding's contributor page,
  5. "Guardian’s Luke Harding wins prestigious James Cameron prize", "The Guardian"
  6. "The richer they come ..." The Guardian. 2 July 2007.
  7. Guardian's Moscow correspondent expelled from Russia, The Guardian
  8. Russia expels U.K. reporter Luke Harding, who covered corruption, The Washington Post
  9. "Luke Harding on Twitter".
  10. "Лавров: Люк Хардинг неоднократно нарушал правила аккредитации в России". 8 February 2011.
  11. Call to halt Russian foreign minister's visit after Guardian journalist expelled, The Guardian
  12. Luke Harding (23 September 2011). "Enemy of the state". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
  13. "Review: Wikileaks: Inside Julian Assange's War On Secrecy by David Leigh and Luke Harding", The Independent (Eire), 18 November 2011
  14. Harding, Luke; Collyns, Dan (27 November 2018). "Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy". The Guardian.
  15. Pompeo, Joe (27 November 2018). ""It Might Be the Biggest Get This Year": How The Guardian's Bombshell Set Off Its Own Little Media World War". Vanity Fair.
  16. Paul Farhi (4 December 2018). "The Guardian offered a bombshell story about Paul Manafort. It still hasn't detonated". The Washington Post.
  17. "It Is Possible Paul Manafort Visited Julian Assange. If True, There Should Be Ample Video and Other Evidence Showing This". The Intercept. 27 November 2018.
  18. "The Needles in the Monumental N.S.A. Haystack ‘The Snowden Files,’ by Luke Harding" The New York Times
  19. Runciman, David (13 February 2014). "The Snowden Files by Luke Harding – review". the Guardian.
  20. Daniel Soar reviews ‘The Snowden Files’ by Luke Harding · LRB 20 February 2014 – 'The London Review of Books'
  21. "Opinions ‘The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man’ by Luke Harding" The Washington Post
  22. Blair, David (11 February 2014). "The Snowden Files by Luke Harding, review" via
  23. "The Litvinenko case: Mayfair murder most foul – The Spectator". 26 March 2016.
  24. "A Very Expensive Poison review – definitive account of Litvinenko murder". The Guardian.
  25. Burleigh, Michael (19 March 2016). "A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding" via
  26. Pomerantsev, Peter (31 March 2016). "Murder in Mayfair". pp. 3–6 via London Review of Books.
  27. "A Very Expensive Poison by Luke Harding – review".
  28. "Spies, assassins and strip clubs: death of Alexander Litvinenko adapted for stage".
  29. Luke Harding (15 November 2017). "How Trump walked into Putin's web". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  30. Luke Harding (2017). Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. Vintage. ISBN 978-0525562511.
  31. Deadline, The. (20 May 2013) DreamWorks' 'Fifth Estate' Release Date Shifts Month; 'Delivery Man' Moved To Nov. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved on 12 August 2013.
  32. Mafia State by Luke Harding – review, The Guardian
  33. guardianshorts, Libya: Murder in Benghazi and the Fall of Gaddafi Archived 15 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
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