The Kremlin’s communications watchdog has vowed to crack down on Russian news outlets that conducted a rare, 90-minute interview with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
In a statement soon after the interview became public over the weekend, Roskomnadzor, the regulator charged with overseeing communications and mass media in Russia, warned Russian outlets against airing the interview and said it would be investigating those involved.
“Roskomnadzor warns the Russian mass media about the necessity of refraining from publishing this interview,” the organization said in a statement Sunday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. “A check has been launched in respect of the mass media outlets, which conducted this interview, to determine the degree of responsibility and take measures.”
The statement was in response to an interview Mr. Zelenskyy gave to four Russian journalists, in which Mr. Zelenskyy called on Russians to “support the truth” and portrayed the graphic nature of the war being carried out in Ukraine.
In one exchange, Mr. Zelenskyy chided the Russian army for being slow to recover its fallen from the battlefield, saying Ukraine made several attempts to hand over the remains of soldiers.
“Listen, even when a dog or a cat dies, people don’t do this,” he said during the interview.
The Kremlin has tightened its grip on domestic news outlets since invading Ukraine last month, banning the use of the word “war” to describe the invasion and instead of describing it as a “special military operation.”
Russia also has imposed penalties of up to 15 years in prison for those who publish “fake” information about the war.
Several of the journalists involved in the interview with Mr. Zelenskyy were based outside of Russia. Ivan Kolpakov, editor of Latvia-based Russian-language website Meduza, published the interview. The interview has been viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube.
Mr. Zelenskyy condemned Russia’s crackdown over the interview in an address after Roskomndadzor issued its statement.
“Today is the day when we see again and again how far we are from the Russian Federation. Imagine, they were frightened there in Moscow because of my interview to Russian journalists. To those of them who can afford to tell the truth,” Mr. Zelensky said.
He added: “They destroyed freedom of speech in their state, they are trying to destroy the neighboring state. They portray themselves as global players. And they themselves are afraid of a relatively short conversation with several journalists.”