Russian TV network registers as foreign agent in U.S.

A Russia's state-controlled Russia Today (RT) television broadcast van is seen parked outside the Luzhniki stadium ahead of an international friendly football match between Russia and Argentina in Moscow on November 11, 2017. /

Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP/Getty Images

The chief editor of the Russian state-funded TV channel RT says the company has met the U.S. demand to register as a foreign agent.

Margarita Simonyan said Monday on RT's Russian-language website that "between a criminal case and the registration we have chosen the latter," adding on a sarcastic note that "we congratulate the American freedom of speech and those who still believe in it on that."

Simonyan said that failure to fulfill the U.S. Department of Justice's request to register by Monday could have led to the arrest of RT's American director and the freezing of its accounts.

Russian lawmakers are drafting retaliatory measures.

In a statement by the DOJ on Monday, Acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente said, "Americans have a right to know who is acting in the United States to influence the U.S. government or public on behalf of foreign principals."

"The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing FARA and expects compliance with the law by all entities engaged in specified activities on behalf of any foreign principal, regardless of its nationality," Boente added.

According to the DOJ, FARA requires public disclosure of certain activities and relationships through registration by "agents of foreign principals" with the Justice Department.  FARA does not limit publishing of materials or viewpoints; it requires only registration, labeling of informational materials and broadcasts, and record keeping.

RT began operations in 2005 under the brand Russia Today, claiming to present the Russian view on global news and to cover stories ignored by mainstream Western news media. It has been widely criticized in the West as a propaganda outlet and for trafficking in conspiracy theories. 

Amid continued controversy about Russia's role in trying to influence last year's U.S. presidential election, Twitter last month banned advertising by RT and by the state-funded Sputnik news agency. RT claimed Twitter pushed it to spend millions on advertising ahead of the 2016 presidential election.