Pro-Putin Media Outlet's U.K. Bank Accounts Frozen Amid Britain, Russian Tensions

Russian Foreign Minsitry and RT editor-in-chief slam Britain for 'abandoning all its commitments to protect the freedom of speech,' though bank makes no allusion to government involvement.

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RT Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan (right), with Russia President Vladimir Putin at RT's headquarters in Moscow.
A screenshot of RT Editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan (right), with Russia President Vladimir Putin at RT's headquarters in Moscow. Credit: Screenshot, YouTube/RT

All U.K. bank accounts of the media outlet Russia Today have been frozen, according to a social media post on Monday by the network's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan.

"Our accounts in the U.K. have been closed. All accounts," said Simonyan on Twitter. "The decision is not subject to revision. Long live freedom of speech!"

Russia Today, often shortened to RT, reported that its London office had received a letter from the National Westminster Bank, saying that the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group, an umbrella group that includes the National Westminster Bank, would no longer offer their services to RT.

"We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities," read the letter.

"We assure you that we have only reached this decision after careful consideration, however our decision is final and we are not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it." 

RT is funded by the Russian government and maintains television broadcasts across the world as well as a news website in English.

In a response reported by RT, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova seemed to indicate that the freeze represented more than a private business decision, saying that "Britain on its way out of the EU abandoned all its commitments to protect the freedom of speech."

Simonyan questioned the timing of the move in comments to RBK business news website. "We have no idea why it happened, because neither yesterday nor the day before yesterday, nor a month ago, nothing special happened to us, nobody threatened us in any way. Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon."

The report comes amid heightened tensions between Britain and Russia, as the former has said that new sanctions are being considered against Russia over its bombings of Aleppo, Syria, where Russian President Vladimir Putin is maintaining an air campaign aimed at helping Syrian President Bashar Assad defeat rebels in the country's 5-year civil war.

An independent monitor and as U.S. officials claim that Russian airstrikes have targeted aid vehicles and killed civilians alongside militants. Russia denies any intentional wrongdoing. 

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly said she also intends to pursue additional sanctions against Russia and France also joined the chorus, saying that "the pressure (on Russia) must be strong."

The comment from France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault came at the end of a meeting in which the U.K. and France sought to persuade the EU to condemn Russia's military actions in Syria.

The U.S. and many European countries, including the U.K. and Germany, first adopted sanctions against Russia after Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula amid a separatist revolt in the Ukrainian region.