Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Moscow of being “frightened” by journalists “who can tell the truth” after the Kremlin attempted to prevent Russians seeing an interview he gave about the war in Ukraine.
Moscow’s media watchdog Roskomnadzor issued a statement Sunday warning Russian news outlets against rebroadcasting or distributing the interview between Zelensky and some of Russia’s most prominent independent journalists.
“Roskomnadzor warns the Russian media not to publish this interview,” the agency said in its statement. “The media outlets conducting the interviews will be subject to scrutiny to determine the extent of responsibility and the appropriate response to be taken.”
The journalists who interviewed Zelensky were Ivan Kolpakov from Meduza, a website based in Latvia, Vladimir Solovyov of Moscow newspaper Kommersant, Tikhon Dzyadko from recently shuttered channel TV Rain and the prominent writer Mikhail Zygar. Novaya Gazeta editor Dmitry Muratov, who won last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, submitted questions for Zelensky ahead of the interview.
Some of the outlets that participated have been formally labeled 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 neutral non-nuclear status, he said.
Zelensky said Sunday that Moscow was “frightened” by the truth.
“[They] destroyed freedom of speech in their state — [and are] trying to destroy the neighboring state. They portray themselves as global players. And they themselves are afraid of a relatively short conversation with journalists,” he said during a several video address.
“Well, if there’s such a reaction — then we are doing everything right. [It] means they are nervous,” added Zelensky.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told CNN Monday that Russia was not afraid.
“We have laws in place, and it is very important not to publish information that would amount to a violation of these laws,” Peskov added.
Moscow has cracked down on independent media in the weeks after President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, and many Russian journalists have left their home country. Access to foreign media such as the BBC has been restricted.
Russian lawmakers have also criminalized the spread of “fake” information that discredits the Russian armed forces or calls for sanctions against the country.