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Exclusive: Russia warns U.S. media in Moscow they risk losing their accreditation


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO – A view of the Russian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Moscow, Russia on April 29, 2022. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON, (Reuters) – Russia on Monday warned U.S. news organizations that they could lose their accreditation if the United States does not treat Russian journalists better. Three sources familiar with the matter said this.

Some Russian state media outlets have been blocked from operating in America and other Western countries since Russia invaded Ukraine, Feb. 24. Moscow claims that this is a violation of media freedom.

Moscow’s President Vladimir Putin issued a March law that could have resulted in a 15-year sentence for those who spread “fake news” about the military. This prompted some Western media outlets to withdraw their reporters from Russia.

Maria Zakharova (Russia’s foreign minister spokeswoman) announced that she had called in U.S. media heads to inform them about the most severe measures they were taking to counter the hostile behavior of their Russian counterparts in the United States.

Three sources who were present at the meeting said that she discussed the challenges faced by Russian journalists, such as blocked bank accounts, visa renewals, and harassment from U.S. intelligence agents.

Zakharova advised outlets that Russian journalists would face similar problems if they were not allowed to freely work in America.

According to her, unless conditions change, U.S. journalist would be forced to flee the country. Russian journalists were suffering and Russia was not wanting to make this happen, she said.

Zakharova didn’t respond to my written requests for comment about the meeting and the warning sent to U.S. media organizations.

The RIA state news agency stated that representatives from The Wall Street Journal and CNN attended the meeting.

The Wall Street Journal contacted U.S. media organizations like CNN, The Washington Post, Associated Press and CNN but they did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Washington has placed sanctions on some Russian state-run TV stations. It claims they have spread misinformation in order to support Russia’s war against Ukraine. Russian officials are not allowed to use terms like “invasion”, “war” or any other similar expressions.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Zakharova and other officials claim that the Western media has presented an exaggerated narrative about what they refer to as Russia’s “special operations” in Ukraine. This ignores Russia’s concerns over NATO’s enlargement and the persecution of Russian-speakers.

Some Western media organizations have left Russia while others like Reuters have stayed and report.