US operations of RT close and staff laid off after carriers cut ties with Russian-owned TV network

T&R Productions sent memo to staff on Thursday informing them that it was ‘ceasing production’ of RT America

<p>RT is a Russian state-owned TV network used as a mouthpiece for Putin’s propaganda</p>

RT is a Russian state-owned TV network used as a mouthpiece for Putin’s propaganda

The US version of Russia’s state-owned TV network Russia Today has closed and its staff have been laid off after several carriers cut ties following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

T&R Productions, the company that handles the operations for RT America, sent a memo to staff on Thursday informing them that it was “ceasing production” at all of its locations.

The memo, sent by General Manager Misha Solodovnikov and obtained by CNN, told staff the company expected the closure to be permanent, blaming “unforeseen business interruption events”.

“Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations,” the memo read.

T&R Productions ran several offices across America including New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Washington DC.

The collapse of the company on US soil comes after satellite carrier DirecTV announced on Tuesday that it was dropping RT America from its programming with immediate effect.

DirecTV was one of only two major TV providers in the US to carry the US version of the Kremlin-ran English-language TV network that has long been used as a mouthpiece to push Vladimir Putin’s propaganda.

“In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately,” the company said in a statement.

This marked a major blow to Mr Putin’s reach on US soil leaving DISH as the only large US provider still carrying the network.

Roku then followed suit, banning the network from its platform.

Beyond the US version, Western countries, TV networks and tech giants have all been cutting ties with RT ever since Russia launched a full-scale invasion on Ukraine one week ago today.

Google, TikTok, Facebook, and Microsoft all limited access to the state-ran network on their platforms.

On Sunday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said that the network as well as the state-owned news agency Sputnik would be blacklisted across the EU.

“Russia Today and Sputnik, as well as their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union,” she said.

“So we are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe.”

The pushback against Mr Putin’s propaganda is all part of the West’s efforts to isolate him as a “pariah” as Russian forces continue with their attack on Ukraine that has so far left at least 2,000 innocent civilians dead.

Back in Russia, Mr Putin is increasing his attempts to control the narrative around the invasion by pushing propaganda through state-ran media and censoring independent journalism.

Independent media sources have been closed down, terms such as “attack” are banned from being used in reporting of the war and journalists not towing the line with Mr Putin’s version of events are being threatened with jail time under a new law being considered by lawmakers.

Dozhd TV (translated as TV Rain) - the country’s only independent TV channel and a critic of the Kremlin - tweeted on Thursday that Russian police officers had turned up at its offices and warned the outlet to stop “spreading extremist materials”.

“Two policemen came to Rain’s office, one of them in civilian clothes. They are waiting for the arrival of a lawyer,” the outlet tweeted.

“The police brought two warnings about the inadmissibility of spreading extremist materials through the media.

“The warning contains the address of the You-Tube channel of the Rain. Specific materials are not specified. According to preliminary data, this means a demand to remove Rain’s YouTube channel.”

This came one day after its Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko and his family, along with the TV station’s editorial staff, fled from Russia amid fears for their safety.

“After the blocking of Dozhd’s website, Dozhd’s social media accounts, and the threat against some employees, it is obvious that the personal safety of some of us is at risk,” Mr Dzyadko announced on Telegram.

On Tuesday, Dozhd TV and liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy were taken off air by Russian officials, who accused the two outlets of spreading “deliberately false information” about Russia’s assault on Ukraine and sharing “information calling for extremist activity, violence”.

Dozhd TV vowed to continue to report information through its social media channels.

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