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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia to Form an Agency to Counter Radio Liberty

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov announced Friday the formation of a new "counter-propaganda" agency to broadcast into Chechnya, aimed at counteracting U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.

Gryzlov said the new agency would be based in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, according to Alexei Polyansky, spokesman for the Interior Ministry office there. The action is being taken in direct response to Radio Liberty broadcasts, which Russian officials have accused of misinterpreting the situation in Chechnya and the action of Russian troops there. "There is an active propaganda war right now," Polyansky said.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty launched its North Caucasus service earlier this month, broadcasting for two hours a day in the regional languages, Chechen, Avar and Circassian, as well as Russian. Russian officials, who have limited media access to Chechnya and banned the broadcast or publication of interviews with rebel representatives, have argued the Radio Liberty broadcasts could help advance the rebel cause.

The State Duma is to debate a resolution seeking the suspension of Radio Liberty's license in Russia this week.

Sergei Stepashin, head of the State Audit Chamber, spoke out Friday in support of pulling the license. "It would be very interesting ... to see the reaction of the United States and the whole world as well if broadcasts supporting the al-Qaida terrorist network started in Russian somewhere in the United States," he said, according to Interfax.

But the deputy chairman of the Duma committee debating the motion on the license, Konstantin Kosachyov, said he had read scripts of the station's programs and "can't describe them as interference in Russia's internal affairs." He added that "we must not protect our positions and interests via bans and jamming, but through federal troops' transparent and legal actions in Chechnya."