Putin ally says EU is hypocritical for ban on Russian media

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin outside Moscow

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The speaker of Russia's parliament scolded the European Union on Saturday for banning the distribution of four Russian media outlets and said it showed how the West refused to accept any alternative point of view and was destroying freedom of speech.

The European Union said on Friday it was suspending the distribution of Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti news agency and newspapers Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta on the grounds that they "have been essential and instrumental in bringing forward and supporting Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine".

Russia has said that the move will result in a harsh response against Western media in Moscow, but has yet to announce which media organisations it will affect.

"The EU leadership can only talk about freedom of speech, but in fact it does not tolerate it," said Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the State Duma, who is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and a member of Russia's Security Council.

"They block any alternative point of view, destroy freedom of speech, violate the right to free dissemination and receipt of information."

Western leaders portray Russia as an autocracy that is the biggest nation-state threat to the global order, accuse Moscow of seeking to undermine Western democracies and say that Putin's invasion of Ukraine shows that Moscow may invade a NATO member.

Russia says the West is involved in a hybrid war against Russia that includes a sophisticated propaganda war aimed at destroying Russia's reputation.

Moscow says Western media organisations are deeply involved in the battle on the side of the West and that they repeatedly publish fake or misleading information about Russia, an assertion denied by major media outlets.

Since the start of the war, some Russian journalists have left the country and key independent media organisations have closed.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned last week that if the EU went ahead with the ban "we will respond with lightning speed and extremely painfully for the Westerners."

The Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) called the EU ban "unlawful" and said the matter should have been decided by a court.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Mark Potter)