Russian President Vladimir Putin may retaliate against U.S. media in the country in the wake of U.S. pressure on Russian-run outlets in America, according to the Kremlin.
"One cannot rule out that measures will be taken based on the principle of reciprocity," Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, according to TASS.
That statement follows the Justice Department's determination that RT, a state-run outlet formerly known as Russia Today, must register as a foreign agent in the United States and Google's decision to remove them from a premium package for advertisers. The threat parallels the diplomatic feuding that has unfolded in recent months but also reflects a longer standing concern about ideological influences in both countries.
Peskov said the United States of infringing upon press freedom. "We are certain that this is a violation of freedom of speech and mass media [rights]," he said. "We do hope that such persecution of our mass media, in particular, RT and Sputnik, will not go unnoticed by the corresponding international organizations."
Those Russian outlets have taken sharp criticism in the west, particularly following a U.S. intelligence community assessment that they promoted disinformation as part of a Putin-run campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential elections.
"Russia's state-run propaganda machine — comprised of its domestic media apparatus, outlets targeting global audiences such as RT and Sputnik, and a network of quasi-government trolls — contributed to the influence campaign by serving as a platform for Kremlin messaging to Russian and international audiences," the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reported in January.
The report noted that RT, in particular, had "collaborated" with WikiLeaks, the entity that published emails stolen from Democratic officials during the 2016 campaign. The report was compiled by the outgoing Obama administration, but President Trump's team has also taken aim at the groups.
"It's time to call out Wikileaks for what it really is: a non-state, hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia," CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who served as a Kansas Republican lawmaker before joining the Trump administration, said in April.
Beyond public shaming, U.S. policymakers have struggled to develop a response to the outlets that avoids setting damaging First Amendment precedents. And Moscow hasn't hesitated to threaten U.S. media when RT has been criticized, as it was last year when a State Department spokesman alluded to their government-run nature.
"If our TV channel faces the same attitude in Washington once again, American journalists will have a special place set aside at the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson's briefings," Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in November.