US intelligence agencies are putting huge pressure on Russian journalists in trying to recruit them too, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.
“Apart from legislative pressure, the country’s authorities actively use less formal but in their view, apparently more effective methods,” Zakharova explained.
“Lately, representatives of Russia’s mass media, including in the US, have come under severe pressure from US special services, which also attempted to recruit them,” she told TASS.
“Tomorrow, this information will be provided to the US side during the talks scheduled in Vienna between Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson,” she added. “So, they won’t be able to say that they haven’t got this information and they didn’t comment on this.”
According to Zakharova these attempts pressuring journalists are “numerous and multi-faceted”.
An example, she said was that the US special services tried to persuade one Russian journalist to cooperate. “Their offer was roundly rejected, so they tried another approach through bribery. They later switched to psychological pressure and then just direct threats.
“We view all this as part of a large-scale crackdown against freedom of speech. This is hostility in terms of information not only against Russia, but we also regard this as an infringement upon freedom of speech in general,” she said.
“It is terrible to imagine the situation of US mass media themselves because we understand that the special services may find some leverage against them,” Zakharova concluded.
She expressed hope that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media would “pay attention to this unacceptable situation and make certain conclusions”.
On December 5, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Russian Olympic Committee from participating, in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics under the national flag.
The IOC has accused Russia of systematic doping violations, including at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, but the Russian leadership has repeatedly refuted allegations of systematic use of doping in domestic sports and questioned the impartiality of the IOC commission.
Barring the Russian national team from competing is yet another attempt to “isolate” the country, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in response.
The panel of IOC officials ruled on Tuesday that “clean” Russian athletes can only compete under a neutral flag, banning the national team from the event. No officials from Russia’s sport ministry will be allowed accreditation in PyeongChang.
This means athletes will not take part in the opening ceremony, and their country’s anthem will not be played if they win medals.
“The attacks are carried out on many fronts. This is a large-scale offensive,” a ministry spokesperson said. “We can see unsubstantiated accusations and decisions to strip athletes of the right to take part in competitions. This is a game changer in the so-called collective responsibility, which applies to Russian athletes. All that is an attempt to elbow Russia out of global sports.”