Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) announced early Sunday morning that it is suspending operations in Russia after local tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against the news agency's Russian entity and authorities intensified pressure against independent media.
The news agency stated that a years-long pressure campaign has targeted RFE/RL. The news agency opened its Moscow bureau in 1992 at the invitation of then president Boris Yeltsin.
The bankruptcy proceedings come after Russia's media regulator Roskomnadzor issued 1,040 violations against RFE/RL because the news agency failed to accompany all of its Russian-language content with a state-mandated warning that the agency is a "foreign agent." The violations have resulted in fines of over $13.4 million.
On Saturday, Russia's communications watchdog restricted access to RFE/RL and several other foreign news organizations' websites for spreading what it called false information. A law recently signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin imposes a jail term of up to 15 years for people who intentionally spread "fake" information about Russia's armed forces.
“It is with the deepest regret that I announce the suspension of our physical operations in Moscow today," said RFE/RL President & CEO Jamie Fly. "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."
"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," added Fly. "We will continue to expand our reporting for Russian audiences and will use every platform possible to reach them at a time when they need our journalism more than ever. Despite this bleak moment, we know from our organization’s 70-year history that one day, perhaps sooner than many think, we will be able to reopen a bureau in Russia. Time is on the side of liberty, even in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.”