'We will not shut down Russia Today' says Govt minister despite Ukraine invasion

24 February 2022, 08:22

James Cleverly says the Government will not shut down the Russia Today news outlet
James Cleverly says the Government will not shut down the Russia Today news outlet. Picture: LBC/Getty

By Will Taylor

Russia Today will not be shut down by the Government despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, who promised "unprecedented punitive sanctions" in response, said it was not the role for the Government to go around closing broadcasters.

Russia Today, the Kremlin-affiliated outlet, has today carried stories from Russian officials claiming Ukraine's air defences have been "destroyed" as Kiev said it was under attack from the east, by the break-away rebel regions, the north, by Belarus, and from the south via Crimea.

There have been several calls to shut down the outlet, which runs a TV channel and news website. Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, has asked the regulator Ofcom to review its content.

Mr Cleverly told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: "We think it is not the role of Government to shut down broadcasters, that is a very slippery slope.

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"We have a regulator and we've asked that regulator to look at their output, it's the right thing to do to get the independent regulator to look at the output of a broadcaster.

"Because you're a professional broadcaster, I'm sure you would not want to live in a regime where the government could decide who could and who could not broadcast on the airwaves."

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He added: "Russia Today has been spouting complete nonsense… I would struggle to disagree [that it is dangerous nonsense]."

Ukrainian media has reported that hundreds are feared dead and Russian troops are invading the southern coastal cities of Odessa and Mariupol, but these claims are yet to be verified.

Ukraine has said it shot down five military jets and a helicopter earlier on Thursday, which Russia denied.

Officials said military command centres have been hit by missile strikes at Kiev and Kharkiv, near the Russian border, while Moscow claims it has suppressed Ukraine's air defences.

Border guards have come under attack by Russia and explosions have been reported in cities across Ukraine.