Russia has accused US intelligence of trying to recruit Russian journalists working in the country, after Washington and Moscow, in retaliation, designated each other’s media outlets as “foreign agents” and condemned the move as “aggression.”
“Recently Russian journalists, including those in the United States, have come under great pressure from the special services, notably through attempts at recruitment,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday.
“This is an aggression. An aggression in terms of intelligence not only towards Russia, but also an encroachment on freedom of expression throughout the world,” Zakharova added.
This came the same day Russian lawmakers voted to ban the US media designated as “foreign agents” from accessing the lower house of parliament, the State Duma, in retaliation for a US congress decision to withdraw the credentials of RT, Russian international television network, late last month.
The Russian Justice Ministry formally on Tuesday listed the US government-sponsored Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as well as seven separate Russian- or local-language news outlets run by RFE/RL as “foreign agents.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 25 signed a bill into law that allowed authorities to register foreign media outlets as “foreign agents.” The law had earlier passed both houses of the parliament.
The move against American media is part of Moscow’s “mirror” response to a US congressional committee move against RT broadcaster.
Washington has accused Moscow of using Russian media organizations to influence the US presidential election last year. Russia has denied the allegation.
Those listed as “foreign agents” have to present themselves as such on any information they publish or broadcast and subject to intensive scrutiny of their staffing and financing.