“It is with the deepest regret that I announce the suspension of our physical operations in Moscow today,” RFE/RL President & CEO Jamie Fly said in a statement early Sunday.
“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,” he stated.
RFE/RL explained the move by the bankruptcy proceedings which were launched against its Russian entity on Friday, and “intensified” pressure on its journalists from law enforcement.
Another reason given by the outlet was a new law that makes the deliberate spreading of “false information” about the Russian military punishable by up to 15 years in jail and a hefty fine.
According to RFE/RL, nine of its Russian-language websites were blocked over their coverage of the Russian incursion into Ukraine during the past week.
“Because RFE/RL journalists continue to tell the truth about Russia’s catastrophic invasion of its neighbor, the company plans to report about these developments from outside of Russia,” it said.
The tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceeding against RFE/RL over more than 1,000 fines worth $13.4 million issued to the US-sponsored news organization by Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor for refusing to put ‘foreign agent’ marking on its content in violation of the law.
Earlier this week, the BBC, CNN, ABC News, CBS News, and Bloomberg also put their operations in Russia on hold due to the ‘fake news’ law, which they branded as an attempt to criminalize independent journalism.
Moscow maintains that the law was necessary to withstand the “information war” waged against it by the West amid the Ukrainian conflict.
Russian troops were sent to Ukraine last Thursday to “denazify” and “demilitarize” the Kiev government, which according to Moscow, is responsible for “genocide” in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Ukraine rejected Russia’s justification for the incursion, calling it an unprovoked attack and urging international support.