Russia Today’s bank accounts in UK closed, a new sanction?

Russia Today's bank accounts in UK closed, a new sanction?

State-run broadcaster Russia Today said its bank accounts in the United Kingdom were blocked on Monday, according to the editor of the English-language TV and online media network.

Margarita Simonyan said Russia Today’s U.K. bank NatWest wrote in a letter to the broadcaster’s London office that it was no longer providing it with services, without giving a reason for the decision.

“They’ve closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech,” Simonyan tweeted.

“We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities,” the letter said, according to Russia Today (RT).

Russian officials, however, were quick to denounce the move against RT as a murky British plot.

“Looks like when London left the EU, it left all of its commitments to freedom of speech in Europe. As they say, a new life without bad habits,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote in a Facebook post.

“It seems that freedom of speech is completely lost in Albion’s Russophobic fog,” tweeted Konstantin Dolgov, Russia’s foreign ministry commissioner for human rights.

The Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, said in a statement, “These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said Monday that the bank can decide who it offers services to based on its appetite for risk.

Russia today’s policy

Russia Today – now rebranded as RT – was set up a decade ago, initially with the goal of giving foreigners a positive view of Russia. In time, the idea shifted and the channel became more about painting a negative picture of the west.

The channel was rebranded to distance itself from the Kremlin and from the very idea of Russianness and launched amid pomp in Britain and the US, accompanied by advertising campaigns urging people to “Question more” and positioning itself as an alternative to the mainstream media.

In 2013, at the opening of RT’s new studios, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, told Simonyan that the aim of the channel had been “to break the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams”. The mission had been completed successfully, Putin said.

The channel typically invites studio guests who endorse the Kremlin’s anti-US views.

Sanctions against Russia

“Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon. It may not. Our legal department is dealing with the issue now,” Simonyan told the RBK news website

On Sunday, the United States and Britain said they were considering sanctions against Syria and its ally Russia over the situation in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.

“There’s a lot of measures we’re proposing to do with extra sanctions on the Syrian regime and their supporters, measures to bring those responsible for war crimes to the International Criminal Court,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

Boris spoke alongside Kerry, who was previously in a meeting with involving Russia and a group of Middle Eastern nations aimed at ending the Syrian crisis. However, the meeting ended without achieving its goal.

Kerry confirmed the U.S. was considering additional sanctions over Syria, but did not name Russia as a target.

“We are considering additional sanctions and we are also making clear that President (Barack) Obama has not taken any options off the table at this point in time,” Kerry said.

Washington suspended bilateral discussions with Moscow over Syria following two attempts at implementing a ceasefire and growing tensions in their relationship.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes. Syria