By Denis Pinchuk
DANANG, Vietnam (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that Russia would respond in kind to what he said were Washington’s measures to restrict the freedom of speech of Russian media organizations operating on U.S. soil.
Putin said however that possible plans to retaliate by declaring U.S. media operating in Russia as foreign agents may be “a little too harsh,” and that the Kremlin was still formulating its exact response.
Kremlin-backed broadcaster Russia Today has been told to register in the United States as a “foreign agent.” U.S. intelligence officials say the broadcaster tried to influence the U.S. presidential election on the Kremlin’s behalf, an allegation the broadcaster and the Kremlin deny.
On Friday, the pro-Kremlin speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, said legislation could be introduced next week designating U.S. and some other foreign media operating in Russia as foreign agents.
Speaking to reporters at the end of an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam, Putin said: “An attack on our media in the United States is an attack on freedom of speech, without a doubt. We’re disappointed.”
“What is being discussed in the State Duma (lower house of parliament), I saw it yesterday, it might be a little too harsh but it’s natural because at the level of the legislative arm you often hear extreme views, harsh judgment and tough proposals.”
“But we will have to formulate some kind of response and it will mirror,” the measures adopted by U.S. authorities towards Russian media in the United States, Putin said.
“I want to draw your attention to the fact that there is no — and there can’t be — confirmation that Russian media meddled in election campaigns,” Putin said.
Being designated as “foreign agents” in Russia would oblige foreign media to submit regular reports to the authorities about their staffing and their sources of funding.
(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Louise Heavens)