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Kremlin unaware of plans to block foreign media agents in Russia ahead of election

Russia’s presidential election is scheduled for March 18

MOSCOW, January 24. /TASS/. Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said he knows nothing about the possibility of temporarily blocking broadcasts of foreign media outlets designated as foreign agents in the run-up to the 2018 presidential election.

"I know nothing about such plans," the Kremlin spokesman said when asked to comment on a report published by the Izvestia daily, which cites Andrey Klimov, Chairman of Russia’s Federation Council (upper house) Committee on Protecting State Sovereignty and Preventing Interference in Internal Affairs. Peskov suggested that reporters contact Senator Klimov to receive additional explanations.

Klimov told Izvestia that calls by US media to boycott Russia’s presidential election are a violation, "which can entail a decision to block them," and that Russia "has every legal ground to take retaliatory measures." According to the senator, retaliation against those foreign media outlets working in Russia, which continue to conduct the activities directed against the political stability in the country, must repeat the moves taken against Russian media abroad.

In his view, the activities of some media outlets labeled as foreign agents boil down to manipulating voters’ behavior.

Russia’s presidential election is scheduled for March 18.

Foreign agent media legislation

At the end of 2017, Russia passed a law on media outlets performing the functions of foreign agents. It makes it possible to classify mass media outlets as foreign agents if they are bankrolled from abroad. On January 12, 2018, Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) passed in the first reading a bill that obliges media performing the functions of foreign agents to register as a legal entity to work in Russia. It also makes it possible to classify private individuals as foreign agents.

On December 5, Russia’s Justice Ministry designated nine mass media outlets, including the US government-backed Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as foreign agents. This move was a response to the demand by the US Department of Justice that RT America, a US branch of the Russian television company, register as a foreign agent. RT journalists were also stripped of their Capitol Hill credentials.