Russian News Site RT To Register As Foreign Agent After US Request

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin. Alexei Nikolsky AP

Russia's parliament warned on Friday some USA and other foreign media could be declared "foreign agents" and obliged to regularly declare full details of their funding, finances and staffing.

FARA applies to those engaged in political activity for a foreign government. The law has been criticized as a way for the Russian government to marginalize civil society institutions.

The Kremlin-funded channel denies assertions by USA intelligence agencies that it acted as a propaganda arm of the Russian government in efforts to influence last year's presidential election. "They are planning to apply a U.S. law to Russia Today and Sputnik news agency", Volodin said.

He said the Duma may consider a draft on Wednesday.

"All actions of American media outlets indicate that their policy and positions are totally unfriendly and that this interference is absolutely undisguised", Volodin said.

"These are not media, but propaganda tools with 100 percent funding from the US budget", Pushkov was quoted as saying.

Simonyan said on RT's Russian-language website that "between such consequences and registration as a foreign agent, we are forced to choose registration".

It was not clear how this label would apply to USA media and how it would potentially affect their work, or how many media outlets would be affected.

A senior lawmaker with the ruling United Russia party, Sergei Neverov, told reporters that the new measures could include social networks.

USA government-sponsored Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) said last month Moscow had threatened to brand their Russian language service projects "foreign agents" in retaliation for US pressure on RT. Simonyan said the head of RT's US subsidiary risked detention and the organization's bank accounts could be frozen if it didn't register. "It deprives us of fair competition with other worldwide channels, which are not registered as foreign agents".

She added: "We will continue to work and continue to fight this as long as it's possible".

Washington has been fighting what it calls a barrage of "fake news" from Russian media, including RT and the Sputnik news agency, which it says is aimed at interfering in United States domestic politics.

"Reciprocal measures will be put in place to ensure the same restrictions as the Americans are now trying to impose on Russian media outlets", Tolstoy said.

The Kremlin has even taken aim at privately owned CNN, which has been the subject of criticism from Russia, for what the government views as anti-Russian reporting.

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a news briefing that Russia was now considering retaliatory measures against US media outlets.

"It will very much complicate the possibility of interviewing people because we will have to report this too", she said. The Justice Department declined to comment to The Associated Press.

In its January report, USA intelligence called RT "the Kremlin's principal global propaganda outlet", saying it was part of "Russia's state-run propaganda machine", which had "contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging". The decision came in the wake of investigations into Kremlin attempts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. It's been revealed that Russian agents used U.S-based social media platforms to spread false information created to help boost Donald Trump's candidacy, and several people involved in President Trump's campaign are being investigated by the Justice Department over possible collusion with Russia.

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