Putin’s ‘truthless’ vengeance against the United Kingdom continues with the expulsion of a BBC reporter, citing a “security concern.”
Sarah Rainsford, a BBC Russia correspondent, left the country on Tuesday after officials refused to renew her work visa.
Officials told Ms Rainsford that her deportation from Russia was in reprisal for the United Kingdom’s decision to bar a Russian journalist from the state-run TASS news agency from working in the UK in 2019. When she flew to Moscow from Belarus on August 10, the BBC journalist, who has reported from Russia for two decades, first learned about her new status. The FSB security service had identified her as a national security concern, and she was being denied a visa “for life.”
Her departure comes as the Kremlin intensifies its attack on journalists in the run-up to the September legislative elections.
Ms Rainsford spoke to Russian journalists about the government’s repression of press freedoms in her final assignment.
She cautioned that when it came to defending free expression, the country was “moving backwards.”
“I’m leaving a country where I first arrived when the Soviet Union crumbled, when free speech and other liberties were fresh and precious,” she added.
“Today’s Russia appears to be heading backwards.”
The BBC stated that it would keep trying to persuade Moscow to change its mind.
The expulsion, according to Tim Davie, the broadcaster’s director general, is a direct attack on media freedom.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated that it will not modify its position until the United Kingdom provides a new work permit to a banned journalist.
Russia has repeatedly warned London that it will retaliate against what it terms visa-related persecution of Russian journalists in the United Kingdom.
“Russian journalists continue to work freely in the UK, provided they act within the legislation and regulatory framework,” according to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom.
Ms Rainsford recalled Russian officials assuring her that the decision against her was “personal.”
“They kept referring to it as a reciprocal move,” she said in her report, “but they failed to even grapple with the reality that I had been labeled a national security threat.”