An independent Russian TV channel just banned in Latvia has featured U.S. officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who participated in an interview days before Russia invaded Ukraine.
TV Rain, or Dozhd as it is translated in Russian, had its broadcasting license stripped on Tuesday because of threats to national security and public order. The Kyiv Post reported that Ivars Āboliņš, chairman of the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council, said the license was revoked due to the channel not realizing “the significance and seriousness of violations; therefore, it cannot operate in Latvia.”
The decision comes after anchor Alexey Korostelyov on December 1 requested for viewers to “help many [Russian] servicemen, including, for example, with equipment and just basic amenities on the front.”
Korostelyov’s words were quickly apologized for by Dozhd Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko, who wrote on his Telegram channel that the anchor’s wording “creates a feeling in the viewer” that the channel is aiding the Russian army.
Radio Free Europe reported that the chief of Dozhd’s information service, Yekaterina Kotrikadze, announced that Korostelyov was fired for his on-air statements.
Dzyadko added that his channel “has never been, is not, and will never be involved in assisting Russian armed forces with equipment.”
On December 2, the State Security Service of Latvia began an investigation that triggered Tuesday’s announcement.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price, when asked about Latvia’s decision during a briefing on Tuesday, praised Latvia as a NATO ally and for housing exiled Russian journalists providing Russian citizens “truthful, independent information about the toll, the scale, the scope of Russia’s brutality inside Ukraine.”
When asked a followup question about Russian audiences deserving to have such information available to them, Price said that the Latvian government can speak to the “basis” for its decision.
The U.S. government is in contact with both the Latvian government and Dozhd, he added.
“As you note, several officials—including in this building, including myself—have gone on TV Rain,” Price continued. “We believe as a general matter that the Russian people inside Russia do deserve, do need access to independent media.
“But when it comes to this matter between TV Rain (Dozhd) and the government of Latvia, I would need to refer you to the government of Latvia,” he added.
Along with Blinken and Price, former U.S. ambassador to Russia John J. Sullivan also appeared on TV Rain in an interview with journalist Ekaterina Kotrikadze on January 28, 2021.
Власти Латвии приняли решение об отзыве лицензии у телеканала Дождь. Телеканал перестанет вещать в кабеле, но останется в YouTube. Мы продолжаем работать и считаем несправедливыми и абсурдными все обвинения в наш адрес.
— Дождь (@tvrain) December 6, 2022
TV Rain acknowledged Latvia’s decision to remove its channel from the country’s airwaves, pledging to continue broadcasting on YouTube.
“We continue to work and consider all accusations against us to be unfair and absurd,” the channel tweeted.
The decision by Latvia was viewed by the Kremlin as a sign of support for Russian state media.
“Some always think that there is a better place than home, that there is always more freedom than at home,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, according to Barron’s. “This is one of the clearest examples that shows that these are wrong illusions.”
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