Latvia pulls plug on anti-Kremlin Russian TV station

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By Euronews  with AFP/Reuters
The Ukrainian flag flutters on top of the Daugavpils TV and Radio tower in Daugavpils, a southeastern Latvian city.
The Ukrainian flag flutters on top of the Daugavpils TV and Radio tower in Daugavpils, a southeastern Latvian city.   -   Copyright  GINTS IVUSKANS/AFP or licensors

Latvia cancelled the licence of an exiled Russian TV channel on Tuesday, branding it a threat to national security. 

Rain, an independent Russian television channel, moved to Latvia after being forced to shut its Moscow studio following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. It had pledged to provide independent information to Russians. 

The liberal-leaning, anti-Kremlin channel described the decision as "unfair and absurd". 

However, the station caused controversy recently after it displayed a map of Russia which included occupied Crimea and called Russian troops in Ukraine "our army".

It was fined 10,000 euros by Latvian regulators as a result. 

Fear of Moscow since the invasion has grown in Latvia, a Baltic country neighbouring Russia. 

Some one-quarter of its two million inhabitants are Russian speakers, with there being deep-seated issues around integration and their place in society. 

These tensions have grown since the outbreak of the Ukraine war in February.  

The Latvian regulator's decision was denounced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a media watchdog, who called the move "unworthy of a European country which defends freedom of the press".

According to Jeanne Cavelier, head of RSF's Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, "the censorship of independent Russian media undermines the efforts to fight against Kremlin propaganda."

Speaking to France24 in September, the editor-in-chief of Rain - Dozhd in Russian -- said the mission of the channel was to provide independent information to Russians. 

"Those who control the information, they control the situation," said Tikhon Dzyadko, adding the goal of the station was to provide "real information about what is happening and not this propaganda spread by Russian TV stations."

Moscow commented on the decision in a relatively neutral tone.

"[Rai] is an example of the erroneousness of such illusions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Latvia's regulator chairman Ivars Abolins told reporters on Tuesday that Latvian security services had informed his office that the station represented a threat to the security of the European Union member state.

"Everyone must follow Latvian laws and respect them," he said, adding that the broadcasts would cease on Thursday.

TV Rain said its programmes could still be seen on YouTube.

Russia announced that it was blocking the station in March accusing it of spreading "deliberately false information about the actions of Russian military personnel" in Ukraine.