Russian President Vladimir Putin has criticized Washington's alleged demand for state-funded Russian television channel RT to register as a foreign agent in the United States as "an attack" on Russia's media and vowed a "tit-for-tat" response.
However, Putin said that a plan being discussed by Russian lawmakers to retaliate by declaring U.S. media operating in Russia as foreign agents “might be a little too harsh.”
Putin said on November 11 that the Kremlin was still formulating its exact response to measures adopted by Washington towards Russian media in the United States.
RT, which used to be known as Russia Today, said in a statement on its website on November 9 that it had been given a November 13 deadline by the U.S. Justice Department to register under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). RT said it would go to court to challenge the measure.
The U.S. Justice Department, which has repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny ordering RT to register under FARA, declined to comment to RFE/RL on November 9. RT says it received a letter demanding registration in September, but it has not made that document public.
RT and the state-owned news agency Sputnik have been accused by U.S. intelligence of spreading misinformation during last year's presidential campaign and election which may have influenced the vote's outcome.
"An attack on our media is an attack on freedom of speech," Putin told journalists at the APEC summit in Vietnam.
"We are disappointed, as they say in these situations," Putin said.
"There is not and cannot be any confirmation that our media was meddling," he said.
"Media express a point of view," Putin said. "You can contest it but not by closing them down or creating conditions in which they cannot continue professional work."
"They went the route of de-facto closure [of RT]," Putin said. "There will be a proper tit-for-tat response."
On November 10, Russian officials said Moscow will adopt new legislation targeting U.S. media in the country as soon as next week.
State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said the legislature would amend its existing law on "foreign agents" to include foreign media. Deputy Duma speaker Sergei Neverov said the changes could also affect Western social media such as Facebook and Twitter.