Russia threatens to expel Western reporters and media outlets if YouTube keeps blocking foreign ministry briefings

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova speaks during the annual news conference of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia.

Russia’s foreign ministry said on Thursday that reporters from Western countries will be expelled from Russia if YouTube blocks access to its spokeswoman’s briefings.

Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who holds a weekly briefing on Russian foreign policy, including the country’s military intervention in Ukraine, said the foreign ministry had warned YouTube against blocking her content.

“We just came and told them: ‘You block another briefing, one journalist or American media outlet goes home,'” TASS news agency quoted her as saying.

“Another briefing is blocked and we will name a specific journalist or specific media outlet that will go home.”

Her comments come days after Russian lawmakers passed a bill giving prosecutors powers to shut foreign media bureaus in Moscow if a Western country has been “unfriendly” to Russian media. The measure is meant to retaliate for the closure of some Russian state news outlets in the West.

Zakharova also said on Wednesday that Moscow is working on measures against English-language media in response to “unfriendly actions” by foreign governments towards Russian news outlets, without providing further detail.

In March, President Vladimir Putin signed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally “fake” news about the military, prompting some Western media to pull their journalists out of Russia. Other Western organisations, including Reuters, have stayed in the country and continue to report.

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