Russia’s RT France closes after accounts frozen, but propaganda migrates to new sites

The head of RT France stated that the Russian TV channel broadcasting in French will shut down after its French bank accounts were banned due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“After five years of harassment, the authorities in power have achieved their goal: the closure of RT France,” Xenia Fedorova said in a Twitter statement.

The account freeze, a component of the most recent measures imposed by the European Union against Russia, she claimed, put 123 employees at risk of not getting paid for January and losing their jobs. For the action taken by the French finance ministry, which was first reported on by the unions of RT France on January 20, Moscow had already threatened revenge.

According to an unnamed foreign ministry official who accused Paris of “terrorising Russian journalists,” “RT France accounts being blocked would result in punitive steps against the French media in Russia.”

The French finance minister stated that the chain’s assets were blocked under the most recent EU penalties, not at Paris’ request. Shortly after the Russian regime started its all-out war against Ukraine in February 2022, the European Union imposed a broadcast ban on Russian state media RT and Sputnik. The European Court of Justice rejected an appeal by RT France in July. Still, the RT website was available for users in the EU when using a VPN connection. 

The only member nation of the union with a recognized RT subsidiary was France, which has continued to create and disseminate content accessible through VPN internet access. State-funded RT, first introduced in 2005 as “Russia Today,” has grown to include websites and channels in various languages, including English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. Western nations have charged it with spreading propaganda that supports the Kremlin and falsehoods.

However, RT’s closure will not stop pro-Kremlin propaganda from spreading in France. Pro-Russia propagandists, and even some journalists from RT, have disguised themselves in global media and publish their stories on new platforms, such as Omerta and Reseau International.

In this context, France and the EU need a mechanism to swiftly identify and ban new websites that spread pro-Kremlin propaganda and fake stories, as they threaten security.

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