By Tom Balmforth
MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said on Friday it would respond in kind if Germany moved to end a dispute over their respective media outlets, but would escalate the row if Berlin chose to do so.
Russia said a day earlier https://www.reuters.com/business/media-telecom/russia-closes-deutsche-welle-broadcasters-moscow-arm-retaliatory-move-against-2022-02-03 it was shutting down the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s operations in Moscow and stripping its staff of their accreditation in response to Berlin banning broadcasts by Russia’s RT DE channel.
Deutsche Welle’s staff handed back their accreditations and its Moscow team stopped work on Friday. But the broadcaster said its correspondents had not been asked to leave Russia yet.
The dispute has further soured relations that are already under strain over the start-up of the undersea Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which requires approval from a German regulator https://www.reuters.com/article/nordstream-gas-germany-idAFL1N2U61T2.
Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, told her weekly news briefing that the ball was in Germany’s court:
“If Germany escalates, we will respond in the same way. If Germany goes for a normalisation of the situation, we will respond in the same way, we’re just as ready to normalise the situation.”
Konstantin Kosachyov, deputy speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Russian President Vladimir Putin would discuss the issue when they met in Moscow on Feb. 15.
He said Russia was ready to cancel its decision on Deutsche Welle if Germany changed its stance on RT DE.
Irina Filatova, who works for Deutsche Welle’s Russian service in Germany, said Russia’s decision had been “a huge shock” for staff.
“We clearly expected some measures after RT was banned in Germany. But we never expected that these retaliatory measures by the Russian authorities would be so hard,” she said.
The German government has described the move against DW as “purely political”.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Riham Alkousaa; editing by Andrew Osborn and Kevin Liffey)