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17 Oct, 2016 19:25

Backtracking from ‘no discussion’? UK bank says it will review closure of RT accounts

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) appears to have backtracked from its earlier statement that the looming closure of RT accounts is not up for discussion. In a letter to RT, the bank said the situation is being reviewed and the bank is contacting the customer.

The e-mailed response began with apologies for the delay in the reply. 

“These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative,” Sarah Hinton-Smith, Head of Corporate & Institutional, Commercial & Private Media at RBS Communications, wrote. 

However, the response by Hinton-Smith contradicted an earlier statement by RBS Group, which said that the decision to suspend banking services to RT was final and not up for discussion. 

The broadcaster addressed the Royal Bank of Scotland representative over the contradiction, pointing out that “your statement seems to suggest that the bank will contact RT and that there will be a review and further discussion.”

“There’s not much more of a steer I can give other than what is in the statement,” Hinton-Smith replied via email. 

Earlier Monday, the National Westminster Bank (NatWest), which is part of RBS Group, informed RT UK’s office in London that it will no longer have the broadcaster among its customers, without providing any explanation for the decision.

READ MORE: UK move on RT 'part of EU policy of harassment against Russia-linked organizations'

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group has the UK government as a significant shareholder, but UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has denied any involvement by the British state in the matter.

RBS’s decision to close the RT accounts didn’t go unnoticed, with Russia's Foreign Ministry demanding an explanation from London over the decision.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said it was monitoring the situation around RT UK’s bank accounts.

Various groups involved in protection of freedom of speech have expressed their support for the broadcaster.

UK-based advocacy group Christian Voice (CV) stressed that fact that the Royal Bank of Scotland “announced a review (of the closure of RT accounts)… was a big climbdown from the 70% UK-Government-owned outfit.”

READ MORE: Support floods in for RT following NatWest accounts closure notice

“RT is a valuable alternative source of information which often rings more true than the established channels with their constant video clips of Boris calling for protests outside the Russian Embassy and US officials blustering about the Russian Federation and President Assad. It would be good for NatWest to withdraw their Turkish-style attack on freedom of expression and for RT to continue to embarrass Boris Johnson and his mandarins,” Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said in a press release.

An online petition was launched at Care2 website demanding the NatWest bank reinstate RT UK’s accounts.

One longtime NatWest customer contacted RT and said that he closed his account with the bank in protest at the way it had treated RT.