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Tit for tat

German-Russian relations are facing another test of strength. This time it is about the German correspondents, who are accredited in Moscow and provide newspaper readers and television viewers, especially in times of crisis, with assessments and reports almost daily.

Would it be conceivable that the work of correspondents would be restricted? Yes, that’s not only likely, but that’s almost certain. Maria Zakharova said this on Monday during a video conference with German Moscow correspondents.

Speaker: “Ethical norms have been cheekily violated”

“The Russian media in Germany are being hampered in their work,” the spokeswoman explained. In 2019, the German Journalists ' Association (DJV) launched a campaign against the broadcaster Russia Today. In doing so," ethical norms were cheekily violated". At that time, the DJV had asked the state media institutions not to grant the channel Russia Today a broadcasting license for its website RT deutsch.

Russia has never allowed itself" such a thing " to German media. Such a thing is inadmissible for us," Zakharova explained.

Now they are again trying to obstruct the work of Russian media in Germany. The accounts of the Russian foreign media RT DE and Ruptly were terminated by Commerzbank at the end of February as of 31 May 2021. Of 20 financial institutions that RT DE requested to open a new account, only a small proportion responded at all. And those who responded stated that an account opening was not possible.

The Federal government is the largest shareholder in Commerzbank

Foreign Office spokesman Christofer Burger said that the Russian government " is trying to hold us responsible for a private-law business relationship between RT and its banks.“Mr. Burger deliberately concealed the fact that the Federal Government is the largest shareholder in Commerzbank with 15.6 percent of the shares.

The spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry told the German correspondents on Monday: “We know that the government of the Federal Republic of Germany is behind this measure. The banks were instructed to do so.“The aim is” to complicate the work of the medium Russia today, which intends to produce television broadcasts.”

Maria Zakharova did not accept the objection of German correspondents that Commerzbank was a private financial institution over which the federal government had no influence. It was known which German authority gave the instructions to Commerzbank, said the spokeswoman, holding up a note purporting to bear the name of the German authority. But she did not want to read the name aloud.

Maria Zakharova: “Symmetrical or asymmetrical countermeasures”

She could not yet say whether the measures against German correspondents would be symmetrical or asymmetrical, the spokeswoman explained. Zakharova stressed, “the measures were directed against the correspondents personally.“Unfortunately, there is no other way to protect the Russian media in Germany.

What might the measures taken by the Russian government against German correspondents look like? Deutsche Welle, ARD and ZDF maintain large studios in Moscow with up to 30 employees. The studios are located in specially secured residential complexes for foreigners and are rented by a state-owned company. The Russian state would thus have the leverage to make life difficult for the correspondents. One could complain about structural changes in the studios. Well-rehearsed customs clearance could drag on. The accounting could be checked. It is even conceivable that correspondents will not be accredited. Russia is not forced to accept all journalists who request accreditation.

Suddenly everyone in Germany is looking away

In the Russian Foreign Ministry, the thread of patience is clearly torn. It is also outraged that the German media do not report on the account closures and that the federal government does not intervene in this matter.

The German media are always very curious when it comes to RT, DE. But just now, when the most important Russian foreign media is being turned off, the interest of the German media in RT is dying completely.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert had set the line for the German press on 5 March. At the Federal press Conference, he said, referring to the account termination, “my comment is: No comment.”

After reports about the account termination one searches in vain in the German leaf forest. Deutsche Welle, after all, reported and even provided a hint as to why it might be. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution continues to assume a “threat situation from Russian influence activities in Germany”.

Apparently, German editors-in-chief want the hated Russian medium to die soon, but do not want to be accused of aiding and abetting it. This is not decent. But against persons who represent the Russian state, every means is apparently right today.

Even from artists and critical intellectuals in Germany, one hears nothing about the monstrous process. Apparently, Russia has already been made the bogeyman for everything and everything so far that no one wants to give his name for this bogeyman anymore.

Silently the cock is turned

Since Vladimir Putin came to power, I have observed an increasingly cool reporting from Moscow. Russia is almost demonized, as it was in the days of the Soviet Union. There is a market economy in Russia, private property and a multi-party system. Under Putin there was a football World Cup and a winter Olympics with German participation. German companies invested 2.6 billion euros in Russia in 2019.

But all this does not count. If you do not meet the quality criteria of German and US politicians, you silently turn off the money tap. Does such behaviour suit a country that is proud of a democratic culture and wants to make the whole world happy?