Kremlin ‘extremely disappointed’ by US Congress ban on RT

The Kremlin on Thursday said it was “extremely disappointed” that Russian television group RT had lost its credentials to cover the US Congress, as Moscow lawmakers warned of reciprocal measures for American media.

In the latest fallout over Moscow’s suspected interference in last year’s presidential election in the United States, the committee of journalists, which regulates accreditation to cover the US legislature, told Russia Today television on Wednesday it had voted unanimously to withdraw its pass.

The move was “contrary to the principles of freedom of the press and freedom of speech,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“This is a very unfriendly step and we are extremely disappointed.”

Peskov suggested there would be “an emotional response from our legislators in relation to US media.”

“This type of hostile and anti-democratic decision cannot be left unanswered,” he added.

Earlier in the day RT head Margarita Simonyan, writing on the Telegram messaging app, suggested that US media would be banned from Russian parliament’s lower and upper houses.

“Something tells me American media will today be left without accreditation for the State Duma and the Federation Council,” she wrote.

“And really not because I was there yesterday.”

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker in parliament’s lower house, the State Duma, said Russia was considering options for a symmetric response, Russian news agencies reported.

“We absolutely do not like the fact that we have to ‘mirror’ all these far from democratic measures,” added his deputy, Pyotr Tolstoy, who pushed for earlier legislation against foreign media in the country.

In early September the US Justice Department ordered RT to register its American operations as a “foreign agent,” a designation mostly used for lobbyists for foreign governments.

That came after US intelligence agencies said that RT was “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet,” and took part in Moscow’s hacking and disinformation effort to swing the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favour.

After RT registered on November 13, the Russian legislature passed its own law to force foreign media to register in Russia as “foreign agents.”

Putin signed the new law on Saturday, and the US government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty have been warned that they may need to register under the new classification.

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