Russia hits back at US request for RT to register as foreign agent

Russia hits back at US request for RT to register as foreign agent

Russia ripped the U.S. government on Thursday for requiring its state-sponsored news organization RT to register as a foreign agent, warning of "an immediate symmetrical response."

"The Russian side has repeatedly warned that any measures limiting activity of the Russian mass media in the United States will inevitably trigger an immediate symmetrical response, as provided for in the Russian legislation," the Russian Embassy in the U.S. said in a statement on Facebook.

"Blatant pressure on the Russian mass media confirms that the United States pursues the course of deliberately hurting our relations. We consider its demand as a wish to eliminate an alternative source of information, which is an unacceptable violation of the international norms of free press," the statement said. 

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The Department of Justice originally set a Nov. 13 deadline for RT to register as a foreign agent in the wake of the federal and congressional probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. 

An intelligence report in January alleged the outlet spearheaded "strategic messaging for [the] Russian government," fueling political conflicts in the U.S. during the 2016 campaign. 

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said on Thursday Russia was considering hitting the U.S. for the deadline.

“I think that our patience that is nearly run out will take some legal shape. I don’t rule out it will be done next week,” she told state-owned Russian news channel Rossiya 24, according to comments reported by the Russian news outlet Tass. 

However, Russia has issued threats against Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America, which both are recipients of U.S. government funding. 

The Kremlin has even taken aim at privately owned CNN, which has been the subject of criticism from Russia, for what the government views as anti-Russian reporting. 

This is not the first time Russia has criticized the U.S. for taking actions against its media outlets. 

Zakharova warned of a corresponding response to the deadline in September. 

"When it comes down to a fight with no rules, when the law is twisted and turned into an instrument for the destruction of a TV company, every step against a Russian media outlet will be met with a corresponding response," she said. 

"And whom this response will be aimed at, that is what Washington needs to figure out as well," she added. "The clock is ticking."