For the first time since the end of the Cold War, Russia has expelled an American journalist. David Satter, a former correspondent for the Financial Times, spoke to The Guardian:
He said the manner of his expulsion – without any explanation – suggested the security services regarded him as a risk. “This is a formula used for spies,” he said. “To apply it to a journalist is something I have not seen in nearly four decades of writing and reporting on Russia. It is indicative that they consider me, for whatever crazy reasons, to be a security threat.”
Satter first visited Moscow in 1969 as an Oxford graduate student. Between 1976-82 he was the FT’s correspondent in the city. In 1979, the authorities threatened to expel him for “hooliganism”, only to back down later. He returned to post-communist Russia in the early 1990s and went back to Moscow from the US for another stint last autumn.
Satter’s new role was an adviser to the broadcaster Radio Europe/Radio Free Liberty, which is funded by the US Congress. He was also working on a book on Russia’s post-communist history. Satter said he had been unable to collect his notes, clothes and other belongings, which remain in his flat in central Moscow.
Asked why Russia had kicked him out, Satter said he did not know the answer. But he speculated that the FSB’s decision may be linked to his writings on Russia’s 1999 apartment bombings – one of the murkiest episodes in the country’s post-Soviet history.
More than 300 people were killed in a series of unprovoked explosions in Moscow and two other cities. Putin blamed the bombings on Chechen terrorists. He immediately seized on the blasts to justify a second, punitive and devastating war in Chechnya.
Satter, and others, believe the bombings may have been an undercover FSB operation, designed to boost Putin’s popularity and to secure his election as president. In his 2003 book, Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State, Satter concluded that the evidence of the FSB being behind the blasts was “overwhelming”.