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Moscow drafts 'reciprocal measures' over U.S. demands on Russia Today

Vladimir Putin

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, said parliament could back legislation as early as next week in response to what lawmakers view as USA pressure on Russian media.

"It contradicts both the democracy and freedom of speech principles".

He said the Duma may consider a draft on Wednesday.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Friday the lower house of parliament will amend the law on foreign agents to include foreign media.

Simonyan said on RT's Russian-language website that "between such consequences and registration as a foreign agent, we are forced to choose registration".

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 U.S. within the period of time set by the USA 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".

Charities and other civil society groups operating in Russian Federation have to register as "foreign agents" if they get any foreign funding. Simonyan said that RT will comply, otherwise she could be arrested and the news outlet's accounts frozen.

RT, previously known as Russia Today, disputes that it is an agent of the Kremlin, arguing that it merely offers alternatives to mainstream news coverage.

In a statement posted to its Facebook account Thursday night, the Russian Embassy in the United States said the Justice Department's decision "created a risky precedent".

"Blatant pressure on the Russian mass media confirms that the United States pursues the course of deliberately hurting our relations".

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment to The Post on Thursday.

"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.

Russian news media reported in October that the upper house of the Russian parliament had drawn up a blacklist of at least five USA media outlets whose activities in Russia could be restricted in response. The decision came in the wake of investigations into Kremlin attempts to interfere in the 2016 USA presidential election. Groups on the list are subject to tight scrutiny by officials and must place the words "foreign agent" on all their publications, a label that recalls Soviet-era denunciations of spies and fifth-columnists.