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It is the first of its kind against a major Western media outlet since the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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A camera in front of the offices of Deutsche Welle, in Moscow.EFE
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Russia on Thursday ordered the closure of the local office of the German international network Deutsche Welle and the banning of its programs in retaliation for the ban of the Russian channel RT in Germany.

The move, announced by the Foreign Ministry, is the first of its kind against a major Western media outlet since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and comes at a time of crisis between Moscow and the West over the situation in Ukraine, which fears a Russian invasion.

For 30 years, the Kremlin had not attacked foreign media despite the fact that Vladimir Putin, in power since the 2000s, has progressively taken control of the Russian media sector. In recent years, as relations with Western countries worsened, that policy changed and in 2021 a BBC journalist and a Dutch reporter were expelled.

The Russian Foreign Ministry announced this Thursday in a statementas “retaliatory measures”, which include the “closure of the local office” of Deutsche Welle, the “withdrawal of accreditation for all employees” and “the interruption of broadcasts” on Russian territory.

He also announced the beginning of a process to recognize Deutsche Welle as “foreign agent”, a controversial qualification that is already applied to various Russian media critical of the government. According to the ministry, sanctions are also planned against “representatives of German state and public structures involved in the restriction of the broadcast of RT”.

“excessive” measures

From Berlin, the president of Deutsche Welle, Peter Limbourg, described the measures against his chain as “incomprehensible and excessive.” Deutsche Welle “protests against this absurd reaction” and promised to “strengthen its (journalistic) coverage of Russia,” added the president of the German network in a statement.

The German Minister for Culture and Media, Claudia Roth, called the decision “unacceptable” and said that both situations are not comparable because the Russian channel operated without a license. “I call on Russia not to exploit the problem of RT licenses for political ends,” the minister said.

A few hours earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said that the German regulatory body’s ban on RT was an “attack on freedom of expression.” Russian chain RT, both on its website and in a mobile application. Its satellite broadcasts were already interrupted in December at the request of the German authorities.

Despite the fact that the regulator affirms that “the necessary authorization was not requested or granted” for the broadcasts of RT, Russia believes these measures are “politically motivated”.

The Russian channel, launched in 2005 under the name of Russia Today, is financed by the state and has channels and websites in several languages, including English, French, Spanish, German and Arabic.

Russia and Germany have seen their relations deteriorate in recent years, with the case of the poisoning of Russian opponent Alexei Navalny and the conviction of a Russian intelligence officer who carried out a contract killing in the German capital. The delays in the commissioning of the gas pipeline between the two countries, Nord Stream 2, is also another point of contention.

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