Belfast Telegraph

NatWest closing state broadcaster Russia Today's UK bank accounts

State-sponsored broadcaster Russia Today (RT) will see its UK bank accounts closed by British lender NatWest.

RT's editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, said in a Russian-language tweet: "Our accounts have been shut down in Britain. All of our accounts. 'The decision cannot be appealed'. Long live freedom of speech!"

An article posted on RT's website included a letter reportedly sent by NatWest to the broadcaster's London office.

It explained that the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) would no longer offer its service to RT.

NatWest is owned by RBS Group.

"We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities," the letter said.

"We assure you that we have only reached this decision after careful consideration; however our decision is final and we are not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it," it added.

All banking services will be closed as of December 12.

It comes amid heightened tensions between the West and Russia, over Moscow's military support of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria.

Britain and the United States are now considering economic sanctions against Russia and Syria.

A statement issued by RT pointed to the fact that the British Government owns 73% of RBS, dubbed the decision "incomprehensible" and accused the UK and Europe of ostracising the broadcaster.

It said: "RT has received a letter from NatWest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which has a significant shareholding by the UK Government, informing it that its UK banking facilities with the bank will be withdrawn without explanation or redress.

"This decision is incomprehensible, and without warning. It is, however, not at odds with the countless measures that have been undertaken in the UK and Europe over the last few years to ostracise, shout down, or downright impede the work of RT.

"RT UK will continue its operations uninterrupted."

Asked whether NatWest had informed the Government in advance of its move, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokeswoman said that the decision was taken by the bank "independently".

"It is a matter for the bank and it is for them to decide who they offer services to, based on their own risk appetite," said the spokeswoman.

A statement issued by RBS said that the bank was currently "reviewing" the issue.

RBS said: "These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative."