Saturday 18 November 2017

UK bank shuts Russian TV station accounts

Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to 'fight terrorism' and insists there is no other way apart from 'active fighting' Photo: HOHO/AFP/Getty Images
Vladimir Putin has stressed the need to 'fight terrorism' and insists there is no other way apart from 'active fighting' Photo: HOHO/AFP/Getty Images

Katie Morley

The UK bank accounts of TV station Russia Today are being shut down amid speculation that the decision could be related to sanctions against Russia.

Russia Today said the bank gave no explanation for its decision but that the entire Royal Bank of Scotland Group, of which NatWest is part, was refusing to service them.

It means the organisation could be forced out of the UK if it cannot find a financial institution that is willing to provide it banking services.

Legal experts said the bank would only rightfully be able to take such action if it had received a tip-off or noticed unusual financial activity suggesting the broadcaster or its personnel had financial links to criminal organisations.

In a letter to Russia Today NatWest said: "We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities."

The TV station and a number of its senior staff have been given until November 12 to move their money.

Margarita Simonyan, its chief executive, told the RBK business news website: "We have no idea why it happened. Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon. It may not. Our legal department is dealing with the issue now."

The UK Treasury said it had nothing to do with NatWest's decision, while sources said that the decision was made independently by NatWest.

A Natwest spokesman said: "These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further."

Meanwhile, Vladimir Putin has said he hopes the US and its allies will do their best to avoid civilian casualties in an attack on Isil's Iraq stronghold of Mosul.

"We hope our American partners, and in this case our French partners as well, will act selectively and do everything to minimise - and even better, to rule out - civilian casualties," Mr Putin told a news conference.

"We, of course, are not going to fan hysteria over this matter, like our partners in the West do, because we understand that we need to fight terrorism, and that there is no other way apart from active fighting."

Mr Putin made his remarks as the UK and US said they were considering sanctions against Russia and Syria in response to their bombardment of Aleppo.

In Britain, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad they would not be successful in their "barbaric siege" of the city.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the attack constituted "crimes against humanity".

He said: "It could stop tomorrow morning, tonight if Russia and the Assad regime were to behave according to any norm or any standard of decency.

"Instead, we see what can only be described as crimes against humanity taking place on a daily basis, and hospitals are bombed and children are bombed or gassed."

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