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US-funded Radio Free Europe suspends operations in Russia

The US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcaster on Saturday said it would suspend operations in Russia.

The US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcaster on Saturday said it would suspend operations in Russia.

The broadcaster cited bankruptcy proceedings initiated by Russian tax authorities against RFE/RL’s Russian branch, increased police pressure on its journalists and the new media law in Russia as reasons.

“This is not a decision that RFE/RL has taken of its own accord, but one that has been forced upon us by the Putin regime’s assault on the truth,” RFE/RL president Jamie Fly said in a press release.

The outlet plans to continue to cover “Russia’s catastrophic invasion of its neighbor… from outside of Russia.”

RFE/RL has had a physical presence in Russia since 1991.

“Following years of threats, intimidation and harassment of our journalists, the Kremlin, desperate to prevent Russian citizens from knowing the truth about its illegal war in Ukraine, is now branding honest journalists as traitors to the Russian state,” Fly said.

A number of western media organizations including the BBC and Bloomberg have been suspending their operations in Russia in the wake of Moscow’s crackdown on foreign media outlets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law into effect on Friday that will mean heavy fines and up to 15 years’ imprisonment for spreading false information about the country’s armed forces.

Two of Russia’s most important remaining independent media outlets – popular radio station Ekho Moskvy and online news channel Dozhd – closed on Thursday as a result of the crackdown.

The law specifically punishes the dissemination of alleged false information about Russian soldiers, the discrediting of the Russian armed forces as well as calls for sanctions on Russia.

Moscow officially calls the invasion of Ukraine a “military operation,” and has already banned media from using terms like “attack” or “invasion.”

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