Barclays has become embroiled in a row between Russia and the UK over bank accounts linked to the country’s state-run Rossiya Segodnya news agency.
Dmitry Kiselyov, the director general of the Kremlin-backed media outlet, is on a list of Russian politicians and officials subject to European Union sanctions imposed following the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has demanded that its British counterpart clarifies why Rossiya Segodnya’s Barclays accounts have been closed. In a statement, it said: “This situation has caused an obstacle for the work of the largest Russian news agency in Britain.”
Mr Kiselyov is reported to have added: “To close the account of one of the world’s leading news agencies is censorship, the direct obstruction of journalists’ work. What kind of press freedom and democracy can Britain claim to have if it prevents one of the world’s largest news agencies from working in the country?”
A spokesman for Barclays said the bank “does not comment on individual client accounts”, while the Foreign Office declined to comment.
Mr Kiselyov is a leading TV personality on state-controlled Rossiya 1 television and warned last year, in the wake of the Crimean referendum on 16 March, that Russia could turn the United States into “radioactive dust”.
“Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash,” Mr Kiselyov said at the time, standing in front of a large screen depicting a mushroom cloud produced by a nuclear explosion.
He added that President Vladimir Putin was a much stronger leader than Barack Obama, pointing to opinion polls on his screen. “Americans themselves consider Putin to be a stronger leader than Obama,” he said. “Why is Obama phoning Putin all the time and talking to him for hours on end?”
Crimea voted 93 per cent in favour of coming under Russian rule in the controversial referendum, while Kiev said it would not recognise the results.
Mr Kiselyov previously caused outrage when he called for tougher anti-gay laws and suggested that homosexuals should be barred from donating organs, blood and sperm because they were not fit.
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