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War in Ukraine: Russia restricts access to BBC in media crackdown

Access to the BBC’s Russian language services has been restricted in Russia.

Other news outlets, including Deutsche Welle, Meduza and Radio Liberty, have also had access to their services limited, Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA says.

Russia’s parliament has passed a law making it an offence to spread “fake” information about the armed forces.

The Kremlin objects to the conflict being called a war, instead calling it a “special military operation”.

A BBC spokesperson said: “Access to accurate, independent information is a fundamental human right which should not be denied to the people of Russia, millions of whom rely on BBC News every week.

“We will continue our efforts to make BBC News available in Russia, and across the rest of the world.”

Record numbers of people have read the BBC’s Russian language news website since the invasion, seeking up-to-date information on the conflict.

On Thursday, one of Russia’s last independent news outlets, TV Rain, stopped broadcasting after coming under pressure for its coverage of the invasion.

The channel ended its final broadcast by showing staff walking off set.

Media caption,

WATCH: Staff from TV Rain walk off set after final broadcast

Russia’s telecommunications regulator had accused the channel of “inciting extremism, abusing Russian citizens, causing mass disruption of public calm and safety, and encouraging protests”.

“No to war,” said Natalia Sindeyeva, one of the channel’s founders, as employees walked out of the studio.

The channel then began playing footage of a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

The ballet was used in Soviet-era broadcasts to mark the death of leaders, and was also played during the 1991 coup that contributed to the end of the Soviet Union.

The station’s editor in chief, Tikhon Dzyadko, left Russia on Wednesday, saying it was due to concerns for his safety.

“The main problem is that we were covering Ukraine objectively, as professional journalists and covering from different sides. We had journalists going live and covering the situation,” Ekaterina Kotrik, TV Rain presenter and former head of news, told the BBC.

She had to leave Russia due to the new law which could lead to prison terms of up to 15 years for people who intentionally spread what the Kremlin termed “fake” information about Russia’s armed forces.

“Fifteen years in jail for just doing your job,” Ms Kotrik said. “It’s the end of democracy in Russia. Any freedom is lost.”

Radio station Echo of Moscow was taken off air on Tuesday. On Thursday it was shut entirely by its board of directors. It had featured interviews from Ukraine describing the invasion.

Russia’s state-controlled TV has depicted the war in a very different way to broadcasts seen around the rest of the world.

The crackdown on independent journalists comes as Russia’s economy has been hit by sanctions. Its currency, the rouble, has plunged in value, hitting the savings of citizens.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of “nuclear terror” after it reportedly bombarded a large nuclear power station, causing a fire in a nearby building.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has insisted the war in Ukraine is “going to plan”.

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Russia attacks Ukraine: More coverage

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