A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, on Sunday said Russia is within its rights to restrict the operations of U.S. media organisations in Russia in retaliation for what Moscow calls U.S. pressure on a Kremlin-backed TV station.
According to CNBC, Zakharova argued that the full weight of the U.S. authorities was being brought to bear against Russia Tpday’s operations in the United States, and that Moscow had the right to respond.
The spokeswoman’s assertion stemmed from Russian officials accusation of Washington for putting unwarranted pressure on the U.S. operations of RT (Russia Today), a Kremlin-funded broadcaster accused by some in Washington of interfering in domestic U.S. politics, which it denies.
As part of investigation into Russian interference in the last U.S. presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials, in a report in January, said RT was part of a state-run propaganda machine that supported a Kremlin campaign to influence U.S. politics – a report Russia Today, and Russian officials, have denied, arguing that that political forces in the United States are whipping up hysteria about Russia’s influence to discredit President Donald Trump.
In an interview with Russia’s NTV broadcaster, Zakharova said, “We have never used Russian law in relation to foreign correspondents as a lever of pressure, or censorship, or some kind of political influence, never. But this is a particular case, citing a 1991 Russian law which stated that if a Russian media outlet is subject to restrictions in a foreign country, then Moscow has the right to impose proportionate restrictions on media outlets from that country operating inside Russia.
“Correspondingly, everything that Russian journalists and the RT station are subject to on U.S. soil, after we qualified it as restriction of their activities, we can apply similar measures to American journalists, American media here, on Russian territory,” Zakharova said.
She, however, did not identify any specific U.S. media outlets that would be targeted but argued that it made no difference from the Russian government’s point of view if those outlets were government sponsored, or privately-funded.
Late last month, Russia’s state communications regulator accused CNN International of violating its license to broadcast in Russia and with regards to that, it had summoned the broadcaster’s representatives.
Though, the communications watchdog did not publicly disclose the nature of the violation, the head of the regulator said it was strictly a technical matter devoid of political influence.