RT America permanently shuts down US operations, lays off staff as Russia-Ukraine crisis escalates

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RT America, the Russian state-funded media outlet, is permanently shutting down as tensions rise between the U.S. and Russia over its invasion of Ukraine

An employee for RT America told Fox News that she and approximately 120 other staffers, who were described as Americans, were informed in a meeting on Thursday that operations were shutting down at the network’s Washington D.C. headquarters as well as the New York, Los Angeles and Miami bureaus. The staffer said employees were given severance packages. 

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This comes as DirecTV announced it was removing RT America from its programming, saying “In line with our previous agreement with RT America, we are accelerating this year’s contract expiration timeline and will no longer offer their programming effective immediately,” according to Axios. Spotify has also removed RT-linked podcasts from its platform. 

A memo from T&R Productions, the production company behind RT America informed staff about mass layoffs. 

“As a result of unforeseen business interruption events, T&R Productions, LLC (‘T&R’) will be ceasing production and, therefore must lay off most of its staff who work at all of its locations,” T&R general manager Misha Solodovnikov wrote in the memo obtained by CNN. “Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations.”

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“We deeply regret and understand the uncertainty this action will cause our valued employees. We very much appreciate your contributions and dedication to your jobs during this difficult period, and will keep you apprised of ongoing developments,” Solodovnikov told staff. 

RT America.

RT America.
(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

RT America was facing intense scrutiny over its coverage of the going crisis between Russia and Ukraine with critics accusing the Russia-sponsored news organization of peddling Kremlin propaganda. 

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“They wanted to dissociate with the word ‘Russia’… so they made it RT, and they routinely hire English-speaking people including Americans … This is trade craft, typical Russian trade craft,” former Defense Intelligence Agency officer Rebekah Koffler told Fox News Digital. “They do that not only with, you know, in the media but in intelligence, right? They always watch for, you know, retired intelligence officers and somebody who would be either disgruntled or just get another job or like retired military. It’s a propaganda machine in the English language, and they have it in many other languages.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(Yuri Kochetkov/Pool)

Koffler, the Soviet Union-born author of “Putin’s Playbook: Russia’s Secret Plan to Defeat America” and host of the “Censored But Not Silenced” podcast, says Russia practices what intelligence agencies call “strategic deception,” which is meant to “confuse Western intelligence and government leaders about Russia/Putin’s intentions,” fueled by a “significant amount of money” from the Kremlin. 

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“Russia’s goal is not exactly to convert someone who is anti-Russia and make them into Russia’s supporter, but to sow enough doubt and confuse people about the real facts on the ground, so they become unable to make sensible conclusions about who is right and who is wrong,” Koffler said. 

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