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Ukraine Steps Up Its Campaign Against Russian Media Influence

News Brief

Ukraine’s security services have raided the Kiev offices of the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, and detained a Ukrainian journalist working there, the AFP reported.

It’s the latest confrontation in Ukraine’s struggle to reduce Russian influence, following Moscow’s 2014 military intervention and annexation of Crimea.

A spokesperson for Ukraine’s security services said the Russian media are “tools in a hybrid war against Ukraine.” The arrested journalist, Kyrylo Vyshnynsky, has been accused of treason.

Calling the raid an attack on freedom of speech, officials in Moscow also drew a link with the opening of a new bridge joining Crimea to the Russian mainland for the first time, which was inaugurated amid huge publicity by President Vladimir Putin.

“Kiev decided to take revenge on us for the Crimean bridge,” wrote RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan on Twitter. RT and RIA Novosti are both part of the government Rossiya Segodnya media group.

“Any action against Russian media is unacceptable” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, warning that the government “will vigorously defend the interests of Russian media to the fullest extent,” according to the AFP.

In a statement, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) cautioned that the “fight against propaganda must not fall short of international standards.”

Ukraine has drawn criticism in the past for attempts to lessen Russian influence. The Russian language is still widely spoken, especially in the country’s eastern regions, parts of which remain under the control of pro-Russian, self-declared governments.

Kiev has blocked Russian TV and social networks and deported multiple Russian journalists.

Vyshnynsky was awarded a Russian passport and medal by Putin in 2015 for his reporting on Crimea. But Ukraine has accused him of funneling agency money to separatist groups in the east.