Russia Today Faces Staff Exodus As RT America Ceases Productions – Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against 11 Russian online media outlets for spreading propaganda on behalf of the Kremlin. It was the boldest move taken by the U.S. federal government on Russian media outlets. All organizations and individuals sanctioned will have any U.S. assets frozen.
The decision to place sanctions on these outlets came after American tech giants Google, Twitter, and Meta announced their own restrictions on the sharing of content from Russian state-owned media outlets, including Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik.
While the U.S. government didn’t take action against Sputnik or RT – perhaps the best-known Russian media outlets outside of Russia – RT has still seen an exodus of staff in wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and the company’s decision to cease productions in the United States and lay off most of its staff.
RT America Ceases Productions
A memo from T&R Productions, the company that operates Russia Today, announced in a memo that it will cease production in the United States and lay off most of its staff. T&R General Manager Misha Solodovnikov told staff that the decision was made “as a result of 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 said.
It was no small move, either, with T&R operating offices in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.
RT Sees International Mass Exodus of Employees and Contributors
RT saw contributors and members of staff from all over the world announcing their resignations. English journalist Jonny Tickle wrote on February 24 that he has “resigned from RT with immediate effect” in light of “recent events.”
Shadia Edwards-Dashti, who worked at the outlet for six years, announced on the same day that he had left RT.
“I want to thank everyone at the channel for giving me the opportunity to broadcast globally on issues that I am passionate about,” she said.
Another British journalist based in Moscow, Danny Armstrong, announced his resignation on February 26.
RT producer Ross Field, who worked at the news channel for four years, also announced his resignation on LinkedIn, citing “moral reasons.”
Other resignations included studio floor manager Emily Kellie, social media content producer Alex Reed, video editor Paul Melvin, U.S. journalist Anissa Naouai, and former leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond.
Moscow-Based Editor-in-chief Resigns
Russia Today even faced backlash in Russia, with the outlet’s Moscow-based editor-in-chief resigning over Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Maria Baronova first joined RT in 2019 but announced last week that she would be leaving after three years on the job, claiming that Russian is turning into an “endless hell” under Vladimir Putin’s leadership.
Only two days after Putin announced his “special military operation” in Ukraine, Baronova told followers on her Telegram channel, “our grandads didn’t fight for this.”
“And now they’ve been betrayed,” she said.
While Baronova left RT, she is not leaving Moscow. She told her followers that she has a son in the city and his father won’t allow her to leave with him. There’s no telling what backlash she might face from the Russian government for her comments – not to mention the likelihood that she won’t ever work in Russian media again.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.