Kremlin-backed news network RT announced Monday that the U.S. Justice Department had ordered its American affiliate to register as a foreign agent for disseminating Kremlin propaganda.
“The company that supplies all services for RT America channel, including TV production and operations, in the U.S., has received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the company is obligated to register under FARA due to the work it does for RT,” Margarita Simonyan, RT’s Moscow-based editor in chief, said in a statement posted on RT’s site.
A DOJ spokesperson declined TPM’s request for comment on the action taken against RT.
The disclosure came the same day that Yahoo News reported Sputnik, another Kremlin-backed outlet, was under FBI investigation for potentially violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by masquerading as a legitimate news outlet while serving as an arm of the Russian government.
Sputnik’s former White House correspondent confirmed to Yahoo that he turned over thousands of emails to the FBI as part of their probe, and also sat down for a two-hour interview about the publication’s editorial operations.
Both RT and Sputnik were singled out for acting as arms of Russia’s “state-run propaganda machine” in a January U.S. intelligence report that determined Russia engaged in a wide-ranging effort to swing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor
FARA violations are seldom enforced and there is typically a special exemption for foreign media outlets, but Russia’s interference in the U.S. election has pushed Congress to crack down. Yahoo reported that Sputnik and RT would have to explicitly label their content government propaganda if they were required to register, and that their executives could face criminal charges and fines if the DOJ finds they willfully declined to do so.
Simonyan, RT’s editor in chief, hinted that Moscow could take similar steps against U.S. journalists working in Russia as retaliation. This tit-for-tat pattern extends back to December 2016, when then-President Barack Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomatic personnel and closed two of their compounds in response to the country’s election interference. Since then, hundreds of U.S. diplomatic personnel have been expelled from Russia, while the U.S. has imposed new sanctions on Russia and closed more of their stateside diplomatic facilities.