1. The BBC, caught up in the cultural cold war between Moscow and the West, has been warned that its Russian language site could be blocked.
The Izvestia newspaper reported that the Roscomnadzor, the Russian state’s media authority, had threatened to block the site entirely because of an interview with Artem Loskutov, an artist and activist who called on Russians to join a march in favour of the federalisation of Siberia.
Russian officials wrote to the BBC asking for the interview to be taken down. The BBC refused, prompting the Russians to respond by warning “If you go this way, we can block the BBC Russian Service’s entirely within the territory of our country,” according to sources quoted by Izvestia. Deputy minister Maxim Ksenzov confirmed to that paper that warnings had been sent.
2. The audio interview was first broadcast on 31 July on the BBSeva programme.
On its website, BBC Russia then added more context about Loskutov, including a quote from one of his blog posts where he described the march as “part parody, part provocation, but also, partly, a real attempt to gain autonomy”.
You can still download the programme (which, obviously, is in Russian).
3. The BBC remained defiant and said it wouldn’t bow to government pressure. A spokesperson said:
We have no plans to remove this interview from our website. Mr Loskutov is an artist and activist known for organising events which are, at first sight, parodies of political activity, but which also bring out serious issues about life in Russia. Mr Loskutov’s views represent his personal position.
The BBC aims to present all sides of a story in an impartial, unbiased way, and we have also requested an interview with a Russian government official to explain their position on the planned march. Our editorial decisions are guided by the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines and the story in question is in full compliance with the requirements set out by this document.
4. The Roscomnadzor has blocked and given warnings to several websites in recent months, but still activists find a way around the blocks.
In July it blocked a page on Slon.ru, who published an interview with Loskutov. The page was “infringing upon the territorial integrity of the country,” the regulator said.
Pages on social media about the march have also been blocked.
Russia has banned the import of goods from the EU and US. But banning physical goods is a lot simpler than stopping the free flow of information and ideas across borders and activists are finding ways to re-post and share information about the march.
5. BBC Russia is run by the World Service which was until April funded by the UK Foreign Office but its £245 million budget is now funded by the TV licence fee.
A committee of MPs in March raised concerns over the service’s future, given the inevitable scale of cuts to BBC services and an uncertain fate for the licence fee.