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Moscow blocks scores of European media outlets in pushback over Russiagate

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on television screens in a shop in Moscow, 25 April 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen on television screens in a shop in Moscow, 25 April 2013 Copyright AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel
Copyright AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel
By Aleksandar BrezarMared Gwyn Jones
Published on Updated
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The list of banned outlets includes France’s AFP, German outlets Der Spiegel and FAZ, and Italian public broadcaster Rai.

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The Kremlin has blocked access inside Russia to 81 European news outlets in retaliation to the EU’s ban against four state-funded media, the country’s Foreign Ministry announced Tuesday. 

The list includes France’s AFP news service and outlets Le Monde and L'Express, Germany's Der Spiegel and FAZ, and Italian and Spanish public broadcasters Rai and RTVE.

Portuguese, Greek, Austrian, Irish, Swedish, and Finnish public broadcasters, as well as the European culture channel Arte, also made the list.

“If restrictions on Russian media are lifted, the Russian side will also reconsider its decision in relation to the mentioned media operators,” the ministry said in the statement announcing the decision.

Last month, the EU banned what it said were four Kremlin-linked propaganda networks, including Voice of Europe, RIA news agency and Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspapers.

The four blacklisted outlets were blocked due to being "under the permanent direct or indirect control" of Russia and have been "instrumental" in fostering support for its illegal invasion of Ukraine, the European Council said in a statement on 17 May.

While RIA, Izvestia, and Rossiyskaya Gazeta are known to be at least partially owned by the Russian state, the Dutch-based Voice of Europe became the focus of an anti-disinformation operation following Russiagate — a sprawling investigation into lawmakers across Europe who were said to have been paid to peddle the Kremlin's propaganda.

In late March, Czech authorities announced they had busted a Russian influence operation conducted through Voice of Europe, alleging financial transactions had been made to elected officials in the European Parliament and national parliaments.

Czech media, citing officials from intelligence services, reported that the allegations involved politicians from Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary.

This led German law enforcement to launch an investigation into Petr Bystron, a member of the far-right’s Alternative For Germany (AfD), for alleged corruption and money laundering, raiding his offices in Munich, Mallorca and Berlin.

AfD's European elections former lead candidate Maximilian Krah was also linked to the case. Alternative For Germany ended up excluding him from its European Parliament list due to this and other scandals he was involved in.

Since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russia has banned multiple independent foreign and domestic outlets, accusing them of spreading "propaganda" and "extremist" views.

It also outlawed calling its act of aggression against the neighbouring nation war, insisting it is a "special military operation" instead — using the law as a pretence to silence dissenting voices, including media outlets.

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