The BBC has hit back against Russia”s abrupt expulsion of its Moscow correspondent, calling it a “direct assault on media freedom”.
Late on Thursday night, Russian state broadcaster Rossiya 24 said veteran reporter Sarah Rainsford would not have her visa removed at the end of the month.
The report said the foreign ministry’s decision came in direct retaliation to the UK’s refusal to grant or extend visas to Russian journalists.
In a statement issued on Friday, BBC Director-General Tim Davie said: “The expulsion of Sarah Rainsford is a direct assault on media freedom which we condemn unreservedly.
“Sarah is an exceptional and fearless journalist. She is a fluent Russian speaker who provides independent and in-depth reporting of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Her journalism informs the BBC’s audiences of hundreds of millions of people around the world.”
The BBC has called on Moscow to revise its decision. Rainsford reported from Russia for five years from 2000 and has been on her current deployment in Moscow since 2014. She also reported from Havana, Madrid and Istanbul. She also recently covered the mass detention of activists in Belarus.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in a social media post, without naming Rainsford, that the ministry had given “detailed information” to BBC representatives a few days ago.
“We have made regular statements, urging the British to end persecution of Russian journalists,” she said, adding that London had ignored “repeated Foreign Ministry warnings that it will take corresponding measures”.