UK regulator says Russia's RT channel could lose licence over spy poisoning
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Britain's media regulator Ofcom said Russian broadcaster RT could lose its UK licence if Prime Minister Theresa May's government determines that Moscow was behind the poisoning of a former Russian double agent in England this month.
Ofcom, which has repeatedly censured the Kremlin-funded channel for a lack of impartiality, said it would wait until May outlines Britain's response to Russia on Wednesday and then "consider the implications for RT's broadcast licenses".
Britain has given President Vladimir Putin until midnight on Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union was used to strike down Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the city of Salisbury.
May’s assertion on Monday that it is “highly likely” the Russian state was responsible for the attack on Skripal has plunged Anglo-Russian relations to their lowest state in decades. The UK prime minister suggested that closing RT was one possible option for retaliation.
British lawmakers have called on Ofcom to close the channel, which was founded by Vladimir Putin as Russia Today in 2005, calling its broadcasts a “propaganda mouthpiece for the Russian state”.
Responding to the threat, Moscow said Tuesday that all British media would be barred from working in Russia if RT is taken off UK airwaves.
"No British media will work in Russia if they close down RT," said Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry.
In remarks carried by the Guardian newspaper, the Russian TV channel said it is being used as a “sacrificial political pawn” in the fallout over Skripal’s poisoning.
“It is regrettable to see RT so quickly proposed to be sacrificed as a political pawn, in one fell swoop doing away with any concept of press freedom in the UK,” said a spokeswoman for the broadcaster.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)