Russian news outlet Sputnik suspends Estonian branch

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Russia’s foreign news channel Sputnik has suspended operations at its website in Estonia after the staff quit over EU sanctions against its Russian boss.

Sputnik is owned by Russian state news agency Rossiya Segodnya, whose chief Dmitry Kiselyov is on the EU sanctions list introduced over Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

In December, Estonian authorities notified Sputnik that it would be criminally prosecuted unless it severed its ties to Rossiya Segodnya by 2020.

Kiselyov “was added to the list... because he played a central role in the propaganda of the Russian Federation that supported the attack on Ukraine,” Estonia’s foreign ministry told AFP.

Officials “informed persons employed or contracted by Rossiya Segodnya that knowingly performing work or services for a sanctioned person was forbidden,” the ministry added.

Sputnik’s Estonian branch said it would “continue its work but we will need some time to organize this so that we don’t have to live under constant pressure from Estonian authorities.”

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its meddling in eastern Ukraine triggered concern in Estonia and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania, which emerged from nearly five decades of Soviet occupation in the early 1990s.

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