(Adds Russian Foreign Ministry comments)
VILNIUS, July 9 (Reuters) - Russian broadcaster RT has said it has no ties to EU-sanctioned Russian media executive Dmitry Kiselyov after EU member states Latvia and Lithuania took RT off the air, citing the Russian channel’s ties to him.
The Baltic nations’ move also drew a rebuke from Moscow.
RT’s editor-in-chief said in a statement that Kiselyov, named by President Vladmir Putin in 2013 to lead news organizations that promote Russia abroad, had nothing to do with RT.
“Dmitry Kiselyov has no connection,” Margarita Simonyan said in a statement late on Thursday. “Dmitry Kiselyov heads the news agency MIA Rossiya Segodnya.”
Simonyan is also editor-in-chief of the state-controlled holding company Rossiya Segodnya, which Kiselyov runs.
The broadcasting bans in Latvia and Lithuania were based on information that Kiselyov, who has been sanctioned by the EU over his central role in Russian government propaganda supporting its military action in Ukraine, de facto controls RT.
“I think they are worried that, after Latvia and Lithuania, other EU countries can determine the connection and more bans will follow,” Mantas Martisius, head of Lithuanian media regulator, told Reuters.
Lithuania had acted on information from the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry that Rossiya Segodnya, led by Kiselyov, is in charge of RT, said Martisius.
“RT is free to challenge this in a Lithuanian court, or it can provide documents to the ministry proving the lack of connection between Kiselyov and RT,” he added.
Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs Ministry refused to comment.
A spokeswoman for Russian Foreign Ministry called the decision to withdraw RT from airways in the Baltic states a “cynical breach into international obligations on safeguarding of the freedom of media”.
Latvia’s media regulator in its decision said that RT had tried to portray Latvia as a failed country and that Latvia’s security services saw RT as the most influential Russian propaganda channel in western Europe.
“We have made the decision based on the information at our disposal that these (TV) programmes are under de facto control of Dmitry Kiselyov,” said the watchdog’s chairman Ivars Abolins in a statement. (Reporting By Andrius Sytas, additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Angus MacSwan)
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