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Russia’s liberal radio station Ekho Moskvy closes

The Ekho Moskvy radio station -- a symbol of new-found media freedom in post-Soviet Russia -- said Thursday it would shut down after being taken off air over its coverage of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. "By a majority vote of the Ekho Moskvy board of directors, it was decided to liquidate the Ekho Moskvy radio…

The Ekho Moskvy radio station — a symbol of new-found media freedom in post-Soviet Russia — said Thursday it would shut down after being taken off air over its coverage of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“By a majority vote of the Ekho Moskvy board of directors, it was decided to liquidate the Ekho Moskvy radio station and website,” its editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov said on Telegram.

The past year has seen an unprecedented crackdown on independent and critical voices in Russia that only intensified after the start of the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia on Monday blocked the Ekho website and took the station off air for spreading “deliberately false information” about the war in Ukraine.

Venediktov said Russia’s media regulator requested that Google delete Ekho Moskvy’s app from its store.

Russian media have been instructed to only publish information provided by official sources, which describe the invasion as a military operation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Ekho Moskvy’s closure was “a decision of the shareholders, a decision of the ownership” and hinted authorities would not prevent the outlet from forming again in the future.

“The radio station broke the law. The right of the Prosecutor General’s Office to take appropriate measures was upheld,” Peskov said.

The radio station could reform “if the ownership considers it appropriate,” Peskov added.

Ekho Moskvy said in a post on its Telegram channel Thursday that it would continue to publish content on its YouTube and social media “despite the decision of the board of directors”.

Ekho Mosvky — which is majority-owned by Russia’s energy giant Gazprom — was founded in 1990 during the final days of the Soviet Union.

It had established itself as one of the country’s leading liberal media.

Russian authorities are presently tightening their repressive legal arsenal against critical media.

On Friday, lawmakers will consider a bill providing for up to 15 years in prison for any publication of “fake news” concerning the Russian armed forces.

Russia’s state-controlled television channels meanwhile have doubled down on Kremlin narratives about nationalism in Ukraine, while accusing Kyiv of using civilians as human shields in the conflict.

The United Nations says that the war now in its eighth day has already displaced more than one million people, after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the offensive in a bid to demilitarise Ukraine and depose President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Western-leaning government.

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