Russia Will Expel BBC Reporter Amid Simmering Tensions
(Bloomberg) -- Russia has given a British Broadcasting Co. journalist until the end of the month to depart for good, in what it said was retailiation for the U.K. refusing to issue visas to the country’s reporters.
The reporter, Sarah Rainsford, will have to leave when her visa expires on Aug. 31, a Foreign Ministry official said Friday.
“I’m being expelled,” Rainsford told BBC Radio 4 on Saturday. “I’ve been told that I can’t come back, ever.”
The veteran reporter, who first worked for the BBC in Moscow 15 years ago, said she sees her expulsion as indicative of an “increasingly repressive environment” in Russia.
“Being expelled from Russia, a country I’ve lived in for almost 1/3 of my life -- and reported for years -- is devastating,” Rainsford said on Twitter.
BBC Director-General Tim Davie condemned the expulsion in a statement, saying it was “a direct assault on media freedom.”
In a Telegram post on Friday, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the BBC “did not pay attention to repeated warnings from the Foreign Ministry that appropriate measures would be taken in response to London’s repeated abuse of the visa process for a Russian correspondent.”
In 2019, the state-run Tass news service reported that the U.K. denied visas to several Russian journalists, citing an unidentified person in Moscow. Russia’s ambassador in London, Andrei Kelin, said at the time that Moscow was considering tit-for-tat measures in response, according to Tass.
The move comes as Russia’s relations with the West are near a post-Cold War low and amid the harshest Kremlin crackdown on domestic opposition in years. The government has forced multiple independent news outlets to shutter or identify as “foreign agents,” and opened criminal cases against opposition politicians.
Rainsford, a fluent Russian speaker, has reported for the BBC from Russia, Turkey, Spain and Cuba, and is author of 2018’s “Our Woman in Havana: Reporting Castro’s Cuba.”
A question she posed to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko about new British sanctions on his regime created one of the notable moments in an eight-hour press conference the authoritarian ruler gave this week.
“You can choke on those sanctions in Great Britain,” Lukashenko told her.
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