The editor-in-chief of RT, Russia’s state-run broadcaster, claims all of its UK bank accounts have been blocked.
Margarita Simonyan tweeted the news, saying:
“They’ve closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech!”
Нам закрыли счета в Британии. Все счета. 'Решение пересмотру не подлежит'. Да здравствует свобода слова!— Маргарита Симоньян (@M_Simonyan) October 17, 2016
According to a letter featured on the RT site, which purports to be from NatWest, the bank will withdraw the card facility on November 14, which is said to be “one month from the date of this letter.” All accounts will be closed on December 12,” the letter continues.
The National Westminster Bank, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, reportedly provided no explanation for its decision.
RBS has so far declined to comment on the situation.
However, Simonyan told RBK business news site no notice had been given of the pending change in circumstances and pointed out that the UK government is considered a “significant” RBS shareholder.
“This decision is incomprehensible, and without warning. It is however, not at odds with the countless measures that have been undertaken in the UK and Europe over the last few years to ostracize, shout down, or downright impede the work of RT. RT UK will continue its operations interrupted,” said a statement from the broadcaster’s press office.
The editor-in-chief added:
“We have no idea why it happened, because neither yesterday nor the day before yesterday, nor a month ago, nothing special happened to us, nobody threatened us in any way,” she said.
“Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon. It may not. Our legal department is dealing with the issue now.”
Goodbye EU… And free speech?
RT, which was formerly known as Russia Today, quotes Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova as saying “Britain on its way out of the EU abandoned all its commitments to protect the freedom of speech.”
A letter from the NatWest to RT’s London office is alleged to have stated.
“We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities.”
RT did not say whether or not it contacted NatWest for further clarification. The entire RBS Group is, according to the letter published on the broadcaster’s site, refusing to “service RT,” and is “not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.”
Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, has previously sanctioned the broadcaster for biased reporting on both the Ukraine and Syria conflicts.