‘American freedom of speech’
Kremlin-Funded RT Reluctantly Registers as a Foreign Agent
‘Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals.’
RT officially registered as a foreign agent Monday, complying under protest with a Department of Justice deadline.
An online FARA registrant search shows RT’s U.S. shell company, T & R Productions LLC, as a registrant Monday, with RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan announcing the registration in a statement later in the day.
“Between a criminal case and registration, we chose the latter. We congratulate American freedom of speech and all those who still believe in it,” Simonyan tweeted.
Simonyan says the registration will infringe on the Kremlin-funded channel’s first amendment rights, and the Russian government promised “tit-for-tat” steps to encumber foreign outlets on its soil. Radio Free Europe and Voice of America may be hit by retaliatory measures, Russian lawmaker Andrei Isayev told news outlets—as may CNN.
The registration requirement for RT came after a declassified assessment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence found in January that the network’s coverage was part of a coordinated Russian government campaign to sway the election.
“Russia’s state-run propaganda machine—comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls—contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences,” the report read.
Twitter last month cited the report as its basis for banning official RT accounts from advertising on its platform, as countless Russian government-linked troll accounts and fake news sites have also been unmasked in recent months.
“Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana Boente said in a statement Monday.
The Department of Justice is reviewing the filings “for sufficiency,” it said in a press release.
In the paperwork filed this morning. RT’s U.S.-based general manager Mikhail Solodovnikov wrote that “Registrant respectfully disagrees that FARA should apply.”
Solovodnikov registered T & R Productions LLC in the District of Columbia in 2014, according to FARA filings. He is its sole member and registered agent, according to the forms.
The filings also give a glimpse into the operational budget of RT America. According to one of the forms, it received $350,000 from ANO TV-Novosti. Its total budget for August and September was nearly $7 million, according to the filings.
RT’s filings suggest that ANO TV-Novosti is “an autonomous nonprofit organization.” But the channel is part of a panel of brands overseen by the state-sponsored RIA Novosti.
In its FARA paperwork. RT takes pains to avoid connecting those dots about who supervises, owns, directs, controls, and subsidizes its funders.
“Registrant's understanding is that the Russian Federation finances ANO TV-Novosti to a substantial extent. Registrant is not sufficiently aware of who supervises, owns, directs, controls or subsidizes ANO TV-Novosti to answer the foregoing questions.”