The Russian government has begun the process of reprisals against the United States following the decision to force Kremlin-backed RT to register as a "foreign agent" under threat of having its bank accounts frozen. RT has registered with the Justice Department as a foreign agent of Russian Federation. In a statement, the embassy said RT was given "an ultimatum to register as a foreign agent by November 13" and if the company doesn't comply, the USA government is "threatening to start arresting staff" and freezing bank accounts.
Just last month, social media giant Twitter announced it would off-board ads from RT and another outlet - Sputnik - based on the USA intelligence community's claim that both outlets acted on behalf of the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election.
In a statement, Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said that the Justice Department enforces the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, "regardless of nationality".
On Monday, RT editor, Margarita Simonyan, said on the channel's Russian-language website that "between a criminal case and the registration, we have chosen the latter", adding on a sarcastic note that "we congratulate the American freedom of speech and those who still believe in it on that".
The production company said in the filing that it "respectfully disagrees that FARA should apply".
The U.S. intelligence agencies have alleged RT served as a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin as part of its multi-pronged effort to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
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FARA requires detailed disclosures of the activities of individuals and organizations that attempt to influence US policy or public opinion for foreign governments and government-controlled organizations.
RT, which is headquartered in Moscow and was formerly known as Russia Today, is accused by the US government of being a propaganda outlet for the Kremlin.
The assessment also said RT America "has positioned itself as a domestic USA channel and has deliberately sought to obscure any legal ties to the Russian government, " but behind the scenes, "the Kremlin staffs RT and closely supervises RT's coverage, recruiting people who can convey Russian strategic messaging due to their ideological beliefs".
The filing for RT came through its US -based production company, T & R Productions LLC.
T&R Productions disclosed payments of just $350,000 from ANO TV-Novosti under its total budget of $6.7 million for August and September in the filings, which included its 81-page contract, in English and Russian, with the NGO.
Russia's parliament warned on Friday that some USA and other foreign media could also be declared "foreign agents" in response to the actions against RT, requiring them to regularly declare full details of their funds, financing and staffing.