Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of being “frightened” by journalists “who can tell the truth” after the Kremlin tried to block Russians from seeing an interview he gave about the war in Ukraine.
Moscow’s media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, issued a statement on Sunday warning Russian media against rebroadcasting or distributing the interview between Zelensky and some of Russia’s most prominent independent journalists.
“Roskomnadzor warns Russian media not to publish this interview,” the agency said in its statement. “The media conducting the interviews will be subject to scrutiny to determine the extent of responsibility and the appropriate response to take.”
The journalists who interviewed Zelensky were Ivan Kolpakov of Meduza, a Latvia-based website, Vladimir Solovyov of the Moscow newspaper Kommersant, Tikhon Dzyadko of the recently shut down TV Rain, and prominent writer Mikhail Zygar. Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize last year, asked Zelensky questions before the interview.
Some of the media outlets that took part were officially branded as “foreign agents” by the Russian government, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on social media app Telegram. On Monday, Novaya Gazeta announced that it would stop publishing online and in print following a warning from the regulator.
During the interview, Zelensky harshly criticized Moscow but also discussed a potential deal to end the war. Ukraine is ready to accept non-nuclear neutral status, he said.
Zelensky said Sunday that Moscow was “frightened” by the truth.
“[They] destroys free speech in their state – [and are] try to destroy the neighboring state. They present themselves as global players. And they themselves are afraid of a relatively short conversation with several journalists,” he said in a video address.
“Well, if there is such a reaction, then we do everything right. [It] means they are nervous,” added Zelensky.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Monday that Russia is not afraid.
“We have laws in place, and it’s very important not to post information that would violate those laws,” Peskov added.
Moscow cracked down on independent media in the weeks following President Vladimir Putin’s order to invade Ukraine, and many Russian journalists left their home countries. Access to foreign media such as the BBC has been restricted.
Russian lawmakers have also criminalized the dissemination of “false” information that discredits the Russian armed forces or calls for sanctions against the country.