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Russia Warns of Additional Penalties for US Media

FILE - Russian lawmakers vote at the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Nov. 15, 2017.
FILE - Russian lawmakers vote at the State Duma, the Lower House of the Russian Parliament in Moscow, Nov. 15, 2017.

Russia’s government is threatening additional penalties against U.S. media operating in Russia. The threat is the latest in a back and forth dispute between Washington and Moscow over the treatment of media outlets operating in each other’s countries.

Ever since U.S. intelligence agencies issued a report last January, claiming a Russian media role in alleged Kremlin meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the media have been garnering unwelcome headlines.

First, the U.S. demanded the Russian state-affiliated RT news service register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, an 80-year-old law first introduced to counter Nazi propaganda during World War II.

In response, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law designating foreign media as “foreign agents.”

Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and several affiliated projects with U.S. government backing were soon added to the list.

Then this week, Russia’s state-affiliated media outlet Sputnik announced that the United States was forcing its parent company, RIA Global, to register under FARA by early February.

In a statement issued online, Russia's embassy in Washington called the move “unacceptable” and alleged that Russian journalists face problems with visas as well as harassment from U.S. security services.

While the U.S. has denied those accusations, Russia also warned that unavoidable “mirror measures” would be forthcoming, without elaborating.

Yet the media issue wasn’t the only irritant surrounding Russia’s debated role in the U.S. elections.

On Thursday, the Kremlin denounced a U.S. congressional report issued by Senate Democrats that accused Russia of mounting a protracted and asymmetrical assault on democracy in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the report part of an ongoing “baseless” and “groundless” campaign against Russia.

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan also weighed in, deriding the report as “boring.”

“Wake me up in five years when they find nothing and don’t want to admit there was no Russian interference,” she said.

Yet the issue is unlikely to disappear soon.

While the U.S. Congress has multiple ongoing investigations into Russian election meddling, Russian lawmakers have been conducting their own.

Of key interest to the Duma is how U.S. media might seek to influence Russia’s presidential elections, slated for March 2018.