Foreign Policy Blogs

Russian Bears Refuse to Eat Guardian Hack Harding


“Russia: Hmmm. Lemme think. It's cold, with nuclear missiles, and… BEARS! Right? Russian BEARS! Bears in…Siberia! That's in Russia too, right? and it's cold! Cold and full of Russian bears! Perfect!” (-NOT Luke Harding's last words, morning of July 24)

I never thought I’d say it, but as I glanced at the menacing headline: “Bears Eat Two Men and then spotted the words “Luke” and “Harding” below, I felt an, ahem, grizzly pang of conscience.

The Guardian's man in Moscow may have been a smug, plagiarising hack, but still, being eaten by a bear is a bit harsh.

Besides, didn't he just re-write a witty annual expose of the craaazy Putin youth camp Nashi?

But several signs immediately told me that Harding was in no immediate danger:

1) The article was an almost exact rehash of a piece published a day earlier in The Scotsman (Starving Bears Kill 2 Geologists) by Alexei Dovbysh (who was actually reporting FROM Siberia). That article is itself a re-write of Dovbysh's original piece for Reuters on the 22nd. That's where Harding found the following quote: “‘Either way there is not enough food,’ the spokesman said.”

2) It also contains entire quotes lifted straight from an AP wire story from the 23rd: (“These predators have to be destroyed,” Leushkin was quoted as saying. “Once they kill a human, they will do it again and again.”)

3) The actual event happened a week ago.

4) As a former BBC employee put it in a response to my email that Harding may have been eaten alive:

“No such luck. I mean, it's not as if he actually leaves the Guardian's bureau, right? Another piece pulled shamelessly off the wires. Good old Luke




Vadim Nikitin

Vadim Nikitin was born in Murmansk, Russia and grew up there and in Britain. He graduated from Harvard University with a thesis on American democracy promotion in Russia. Vadim's articles about Russia have appeared in The Nation, Dissent Magazine, and The Moscow Times. He is currently researching a comparative study of post-Soviet and post-Apartheid nostalgia.
Areas of Focus:
USSR; US-Russia Relations; Culture and Society; Media; Civil Society; Politics; Espionage; Oligarchs