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Moscow Targets VOA Reporter in Latest Round of Sanctions Against Americans


FILE - Signage is seen on the Voice of America building in Washington, June 15, 2020.
FILE - Signage is seen on the Voice of America building in Washington, June 15, 2020.

The White House said Friday that Russia's sanctioning of 200 U.S. citizens is a reminder of the "danger of an autocrat like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

A Voice of America reporter was among the U.S. citizens sanctioned by the Russian government on Thursday.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday that it was sanctioning Jeff Seldin, who covers national security at VOA. Seldin was among several reporters, including some from The Washington Post and The New York Times, to be included in this latest spate of sanctions against U.S. citizens.

In total, 227 American citizens were included in this round of sanctions over what the Russian government said was “anti-Russian activity.”

“Entry to the Russian Federation is closed to 227 Americans involved in the development, implementation and justification of the Russophobic course of the current U.S. administration,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement on its website.

The announcement came just one day before the beginning of presidential elections in Russia that President Vladimir Putin is almost guaranteed to win, due to the intimidation or jailing of most potential opponents.

At a White House press briefing Friday, national security communications adviser John Kirby said the sanctions are "consistent with the Kremlin approach" to journalists and the crackdown on free speech that "Putin finds offensive or inimical to his own selfish interests."

The action, said Kirby, underscores "the danger to Americans who may be in Russia and the need not to be there.” It also shows "the real danger of an autocrat like Putin and what he's really after," Kirby said.

Other journalists who were sanctioned included The Washington Post’s Joseph Marks, Joseph Menn, Ellen Nakashima and Tim Starks. Robert Worth from The New York Times was also on the list.

Seldin directed VOA to the outlet’s public relations team.

“VOA’s mandate is to provide accurate, objective, and comprehensive news and information to every part of the world,” the outlet said in a statement. “We stand by Jeff’s reporting and will not be deterred from serving our audience in Russia.”

Seldin isn’t the first VOA journalist to be sanctioned by Moscow. VOA’s former acting director, Yolanda Lopez, was sanctioned by the Russian government in May 2023.

Government officials, including U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, were included on the new list.

“We are deeply concerned by the Kremlin’s escalating attempts to restrict freedom of expression and media freedom in Russia,” a State Department spokesperson told VOA in a statement.

“In the strongest possible terms, we condemn the Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish independent journalists and civil society voices, including through the use of censorship laws to punish criticism of Russia’s brutal war,” the statement continued.

Moscow also sanctioned a slew of professors from various universities including Harvard, Yale and Columbia.

For Peter Clement, who teaches courses on Russian security policy at Columbia, being included in this round of sanctions didn’t come as a shock.

“I wasn’t surprised. It’s consistent with past Russian policy to issue what they view as reciprocal sanctions,” Clement told VOA.

The Kremlin has blocked more than 2,000 Americans from entering Russia in what it says is a response to U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals and companies.

The United States and other Western countries have hit Russia with a massive wave of sanctions in response to its war against Ukraine.

VOA White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara contributed to this report. Some information came from Agence France-Presse.