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Kremlin-Backed TV To Remove U.S. Ads Making Light Of Election Meddling

RT, the Kremlin-backed global TV network, will remove a series of provocative street ads appearing in Washington and New York, that appear to poke fun at Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The advertisements began appearing on bus shelters, cars and in subway stations recently. One read: "Stuck in traffic? Lost an election? Blame us!" Another teased: "Find out who we are planning to hack next."

But according to The Washington Post, the signs are coming down after the Department of Justice asked that the network, formerly known as Russia Today, register as a foreign agent under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA.

The Post quotes from an email from RT spokeswoman Anna Belkina, who says the ads were intended to run for a month but were being taken down on advice from the network's legal team.

She also denied that the ads had anything to with Clinton's election loss, the newspaper said.

"'The campaign was developed and platforms secured prior to the receipt of correspondence from the DOJ demanding FARA registration, and the mounting pressure on our US operations that surrounds this,' Belkina wrote in an email. 'Due to the circumstances that RT America is facing, therefore, we are forced to replace our campaign with alternative advertising, which you will see in the coming weeks.' "

She continued: "The ability for current, politically motivated, Russophobic orators to twist and manipulate the ads for nefarious purposes, has left us where we are today."

Forbes writes: "In the fall of 2016, RT America stories supported conspiracy theories undermining Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy, such as that surrounding the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich. The stories were widely shared on social media, both by Russian bots and real people."

The Justice Department has declined to confirm whether RT has been asked to register under FARA, which was passed in 1938 and aimed at combating Nazi propaganda. The Post reports that doing so would require RT to state in the ads that they were paid for by the Russian government.

Margarita Simonyan, who heads Rossiya Segodnya, which owns RT and Sputnik International, a Russian radio broadcaster under FBI investigation for spreading fake news, said that RT was losing employees in its U.S. operations over "fears for their security," according to The Moscow Times.

"People are scared, people are afraid," Russia's state-run TASS news agency quoted Simonyan as saying in testimony at a Russian parliamentary hearing Thursday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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