The editor-in-chief of RT, the Kremlin-sponsored news organization, wants Americans to know they don’t have to be afraid of Russia anymore.
Margarita Simonyan, 37, became the top editor at RT when she was just 25 years old, and has continued to oversee the organization that was found by U.S. intelligence agencies to have attempted to “influence politics [and] fuel discontent” in the U.S.
But in an interview with NBC News published Saturday, Simonyan said she is “very saddened” by the current relationship between the U.S. and Russia.
“I lived in America. I love America. We are not Communists anymore,” Simonyan said. “We have changed, but for some reason, the establishment doesn’t recognize it and doesn’t give us a chance to show that we have changed. You don’t have to be afraid of us anymore.”
In a declassified report from the intelligence community published in January, RT is described as being of “importance to the Kremlin as a messaging tool” and said statements from leaders of RT, as well as efforts to expand RT's operations, “indicate a Kremlin-directed campaign to undermine faith in the US government and fuel political protest.”
The report also states the Russian government has “committed significant resources to expanding the channel’s reach,” especially regarding its social media influence.
In the wake of the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian attempted to meddle in the 2016 election, the Justice Department forced RT America, the organization’s U.S.-based channel, to register as a foreign agent.
But Simonyan suggested the U.S. government has targeted Russia with its criticisms of RT, and said the organization is the same as others that receive funding from other foreign governments.
“I don’t understand why any country is given a chance to make its point of view seen and heard by the world, and Russia is not given that chance,” she said. “Russia is said to be propaganda for doing exactly that. We are no more propaganda than the Voice of America or Radio Free Europe is propaganda.”
The report from the intelligence community, though, found that RT “conducts strategic messaging for Russian government” and criticized the 2016 election as part of its “broader and longer-standing anti-US messaging likely aimed at undermining viewers’ trust in US democratic procedures and undercutting US criticism of Russia’s political system.”
Intelligence agencies also found leaders of RT are “closely tied to” and “controlled” by the Kremlin.