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UK Bank To Close Russian State Media Outlet's Accounts

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A journalist from Russian state-run broadcaster RT said the news outlet received notice that NatWest bank will be closing RT's accounts in the U.K. 

"They've closed our accounts in Britain," journalist Margarita Simonyan tweeted, reports the BBC. "All our accounts. 'The decision is not subject to review.' Praise be to freedom of speech!"

RT says it received a notice from NatWest, saying, "We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities." NatWest said it is "not prepared to enter into any discussion," about the decision. 

Simonyan told the media, "They haven't explained the reasons and I think they can't explain them because there can't be any reasons. We have an absolutely transparent operation there, absolutely transparent funding. There have never been any complaints in this regard at all. They have failed to defeat us by simply vilifying us, by picking on our broadcast, so they decided to try the banking flank."

The notice came two months in advance of the account freezes, which will take effect on Dec. 12.

The account closures were announced the day after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Both nations are considering new sanctions on Russia and Syria over their military actions in Aleppo, Syria, reports the Daily Mail.

A source told the Guardian that NatWest's decision to close RT's accounts "isn't something that has come out of the [U.K.] Treasury." But Russian officials pointed out that NatWest, a division of the Royal Bank of Scotland, is mostly state-owned.

RT said in a statement the account closures are simply the latest in a succession of "countless measures that have been undertaken in the UK and Europe over the last few years to ostracize, shout down or downright impede the work of RT," including allegations and investigations from the U.K.'s media regulation body, Ofcom, which recorded 20 violations of U.K. broadcasting law since RT started broadcasting in the country, originally as Russia Today, 10 years ago.

David Clark, chair of the Russia Foundation and former Foreign Office adviser, says that the Kremlin uses RT for "information warfare."

"The clue is in the strapline: 'Question more,'" he said, referring to RT's slogan. "They are trying to sow confusion and to create a climate of intellectual pessimism and nihilism by mixing the genre of news and outright fabrication."

Clark speculated that the BBC's office in Moscow will likely be "in the frontline" for retribution from the Russian government. "[The BBC] is a public body, but in the Russian mind it's an arm of the state ... They will look at kicking British journalists out of Russia, I guess."

Sources: BBC, Daily Mail, The Guardian / Photo credit: RT via BBC

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