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18 Oct, 2016 13:35

Bank didn’t decide to close RT accounts in Britain on its own – Lavrov

Bank didn’t decide to close RT accounts in Britain on its own – Lavrov

The decision by a majority-British government-owned bank to stop servicing RT UK’s accounts could not have been taken by the institution independently, Russia’s foreign minister says. The British government denies any involvement in the situation.

NatWest bank, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, informed that it intends to stop servicing RT UK and that the decision was not subject to discussion. Commenting on the accounts closure on Tuesday, Sergey Lavrov insisted that the decision had not been taken by the bank independently.

READ MORE: UK bank to close RT accounts, 'long live freedom of speech!' – editor-in-chief

“It’s as clear as day that this decision was not made by the bank. And not any other bank – banks don’t make such decisions on their own,” he said. “I believe an old saying is appropriate here: don’t treat others the way you don’t wish to be treated yourself.”

The minister didn’t elaborate on possible retaliation for RT accounts closure. The Russian Foreign Ministry earlier described as “squeezing alternative voices out of UK media space” by the UK government and said it was a violation of British commitments to preserve press freedoms under the Helsinki Accord of 1975.

The British government has denied any involvement in the situation, insisting that NatWest made the decision independently from its state owner.

“I noted the decision of the NatWest bank to withdraw support for RT, that was a wholly independently taken decision,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the House of Commons on Tuesday.

The bank has since backtracked on its ‘non-negotiable’ position, saying in a statement that it was “reviewing the situation” and “contacting the customer to discuss this further.” According to RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, no arrangement has been set for such talks yet.

The Times claimed that Russia had threatened to close the accounts of the BBC in Russia and to report the case to the OSCE, an organization that grew from the Helsinki Accord. The British newspaper didn’t cite any sources, but claimed that RBS “withdrew its punitive action” after the threats. RBS is another bank owned by the RBS Group, which apparently the Times meant to name as the decision-maker.

READ MORE: #BankXit: Long-term NatWest client closes account in retaliation for action against RT

RT has received numerous messages of support after disclosing its banking troubles on Monday coming both from public figures and devoted viewers.

"This is an attempt to squeeze out alternative voices. All the big domestic UK channels carry government policy uncritically," Steve Hedley, Senior Assistant General Secretary of RMT, the UK's biggest specialized transport union, told RT on-air. "They are attempting to put a warning shot across the bow of not just RT, but any news organizations with a different point of view."

A NatWest customer told RT he had closed his account with the bank after a decade of being its customer in protest at the way it had treated the news channel, and dozens more said they planned to do so in article comments.