HELSINKI (AP) – The Baltic state of Latvia has banned state-controlled Russian television channel RT and claims to be effectively controlled by a media figure subject to European Union sanctions.
But the man in question, Dmitry Kiselev, ridiculed the move, saying he never led RT. He suggested that Latvia apologize to the channel and put it back on the air.
He was on the EU sanctions list for his alleged role in promoting Kremlin propaganda in support of Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
In total, the Latvian National Council for Electronic Mass Media has banned seven channels belonging to RT’s multilingual network from being broadcast in Latvia, saying that RT was under Kiselev’s “effective control”.
The Latvian National Council for Electronic Mass Media banned seven channels belonging to RT’s multilingual network from being broadcast in Latvia, a former Soviet republic of nearly 2 million.
It listed the channels as RT, RT HD, RT Arabic, RT Spanish, RT Documentary HD, RT Documentary and RT TV, accusing them of having remained under the effective control of Kicallyov and his personal oversight.
In its ruling, the Latvian national media watchdog accused RT in its programs of trying to present Latvia as a failed state.
Kiselev, who heads the state of Rossiya Segodnya media group, including the RIA Novosti news agency and the Sputnik news service for a foreign audience, scoffed at the decision, pointing out that he has nothing to do with RT, formerly known as Russia Today.
While Rossiya Segodnya means that Russia has been translated into English today, it was RIA Novosti who founded RT before Kicallyev took the helm, and the two organizations have long since split up.
“It testifies to the stupidity, incompetence and russophobia of those in Latvia making such decisions,” Kiselev said in an interview with Govorit Moskva radio. “I think the Latvians should apologize to RT and get it back on the air.”
RT chief Margarita Simonyan on Twitter also made fun of the Latvian claim that Kiselev is in charge of the channel.
“Latvian intelligence believes that Dmitry Kiselyov is in charge of RT,” she sneered. “With that kind of intelligence, we can’t be afraid of anything.”
In addition to a press officer, Kiselev is a widely known journalist and TV presenter in Russia. It is subject to sanctions throughout the territory of the EU. Latvia said it would inform media regulators in other EU Member States of its decision and urges them to also ban RT.
The action, made possible by changes to the Latvian electronic media law passed this month, will take effect after it has been officially noted and will remain valid as long as Kiselev faces EU sanctions.
RT is widely seen in Latvia and in the Baltic neighboring countries of Estonia and Lithuania as a Kremlin propagation tool aimed at influencing the region’s significant ethnic Russian minority.
Latvia and Lithuania have temporarily suspended other Russian state television channels in recent years.
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