Moscow has threatened U.S.-supported news organizations operating in Russia with unspecified “restrictions” in a move widely seen as retaliation for what the Kremlin considers the unfair targeting of Russian media and charges of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
On Monday, Russia’s Justice Ministry sent warning letters to Radio Free Europe’s Russian service and a Russian-language cable news network launched by Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. Radio Free Europe said it was warned its operations were now subject to Russian laws governing foreign agents and NGOs — and thus could curbs on its coverage.
“The activity of your organization may be subjected to restrictions envisioned in the legislation of the Russian Federation,” said a statement from ministry official Vladimir Titov.
The feud has escalated in recent weeks. Russia says the government’s primary international TV station, Russia Today or RT, and the news website Sputnik have been singled out for criticism for their coverage of U.S. politics and domestic trends.
A U.S. intelligence community report in January on Russian election meddling highlighted the role of RT America, which Washington officials have characterized as a mouthpiece for Kremlin propaganda. The station has also been accused of attempting to interfere in U.S. politics, a charge it denies.
RT now claims the Justice Department last month sent a letter to a Russian firm affiliated with the TV station requiring it to register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Traditionally FARA, created to reduce undisclosed foreign propaganda in the U.S., is not applied to media companies. Justice Department officials have not commented on RT’s claim