Russian foreign ministry says retaliation against United States media could begin next week

Russian President Vladimir Putin is seen at the headquarters of the

Reuters reported that Russian lawmakers said "the move was retaliation for a demand by the U.S. Department of Justice that Kremlin-backed TV station RT register in the United States as a "foreign agent", something Moscow has said it regards as an unfriendly act".

Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of RT, said in a statement that she regarded the requirement as contrary to law and the company meant to challenge it in court. "The demand is discriminative, it contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles".

The Russian parliament on Friday signaled that it will force some American news outlets working there to register as foreign agents.

"Our law on foreign agents doesn't apply to media but since they are taking such measures against our channels in the USA, we should respond to these unfriendly acts", Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of parliament, said Friday in comments posted on the State Duma's website.

The 2012 Russian law now applies only to non-governmental organizations that receive foreign funding and are considered to engage in political activity.

On Thursday, RT Managing Director Alexey Nikolov said at a meeting of the Provisional Commission of Russia's Federation Council (upper house of parliament) on Information Policy and Media Interaction that he had not registered as a foreign agent in the USA within the period of time set by the United States authorities. "Since such decisions are being made on USA territory in relation to our TV channels, it will be right for us to respond to these actions".

The Kremlin-funded channel denies assertions by USA intelligence agencies that it acted as a propaganda arm of the Russian government in efforts to influence last year's presidential election.

However, Russia has issued threats against Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America, which both are recipients of USA government funding. In the past, the ministry also has mentioned CNN, which does not receive US government funds, but is a frequent target of criticism by the Russian government for what it says is anti-Russian bias in its reporting.

On Thursday, Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the upper house's Commission on Information Policy and Interaction with Media, held a meeting to discuss the US move and possible retaliatory steps, a Federation Council statement said. Memorial, one of Russia's oldest human rights groups, which has for three decades sought to expose Soviet mass killings and arrests, and the Levada Center, an independent polling agency, were registered as foreign agents by Russia's Ministry of Justice.

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