Wed, 12 May 2021

MOSCOW, Russia: - Radio Free Europe has been fined $70,000 by a Russian court.

The Russian move was part of a campaign to force Radio Free Europe to leave Russia, said company officials.

Radio Free Europe, with a bureau in Moscow, has now been fined $1 million, following charges by Russia that it failed to label itself as a foreign agent.

Radio Free Europe has refused to provide the Russian government with a discalimer stating it is a media outlet "fulfilling the function of a foreign agent".

"The indications are that they want us to leave the country," Jamie Fly, RFE/RL's president, told Reuters.

Further, Radio Free Europe staff could be held responsible for the unpaid fines, said Fly.

"They could essentially force us into bankruptcy at that point because we have not paid the fines, because we are not complying," Fly said.

Officials at Russia's state communication agency said the foreign agent designation is required so that Russian audiences understand that Radio Free Europe's news is delivered by a foreign agent media that "pursue the interests of other states".

Radio Free Europe is funded by the U.S. Congress, though news officials stress it has full editorial independence protected by U.S. law.

Radio Free Europe officials have described the Russian requirement of registering as a foreign agent as defacing its own product.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Twitter that the Russian aqctions raised "concern over Russia's efforts to close Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and silence this valued source of independent reporting".

Russia's Sputnik and RT outlets are required to register as foreign agents in the United States.

Radio Free Europe was founded in the 1950s and was t odds with Soviet authorities for years. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian President Boris Yeltsin invited RFE/RL to open an office in Russia.

Radio Free Europe has more than 50 employees in Moscow, along with a network of over 300 freelancers across the country.

Radio Free Europe's worldwide services include a round-the-clock television that is seen in more than 20 countries.

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