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Secretary of State Tony Blinken (left) meets Wednesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo: Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP via Getty

Among the topics that Secretary of State Tony Blinken raised with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in their first meeting on Wednesday was the crackdown on the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Why it matters: RFE/RL, which is editorially independent, has the largest audience in Russia of any international media organization across its several platforms, according to the U.S. Agency for Global Media. But its continued operations in Russia are in doubt.

To comply with restrictions imposed last fall, RFE/RL would have had to place warnings on every piece of content it produces — 15-second trailers before videos, for example — identifying itself as a foreign agent.

  • That's a more onerous version of the labeling required in the U.S. for Russia's RT and Sputnik propaganda outlets.

Believing it would not be able to effectively reach its audience under those conditions, "we decided to defy the law and to not label, which is how we ended up in this situation today," RFE/RL president Jamie Fly tells Axios.

  • "We now have roughly $2.3 million in fines assessed against us for content that was not labeled, and last Friday we had bailiffs visiting our bureau and our bank accounts being frozen several hours later," Fly says.
  • RFE/RL has appealed in the Russian courts and at the European Court of Human Rights, but "we understand that we may be in a situation where we are not able to convince the Russian authorities to change course," Fly says.
  • Under the law, Russian authorities could raid the Moscow bureau and seize equipment, or even could pursue criminal charges against RFE/RL's corporate officers.

The bottom line: If enforced, the law "would diminish the firsthand reporting that's possible from inside Russia, which is disturbing not only to us ... but comes at a time when there are many other Russian independent media outlets under attack," Fly says.

  • He added that even if the Moscow bureau is forced to shut down, RFE/RL will use its large network of contributors to continue to produce journalism in Russia.

Go deeper

8 mins ago - World

Putin denies Russia is behind cyberattacks ahead of Biden summit

In an exclusive interview with NBC's "Today," Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that Russia is waging cyber warfare against the United States and refused to guarantee opposition leader Alexei Navalny — whose name he would not say — will leave prison alive.

Why it matters: Cyberattacks by Russian intelligence and Russian-speaking criminal groups, as well as the Kremlin's attempted assassination and jailing of Navalny, are among the topics President Biden is expected to raise at his Geneva summit with Putin on Wednesday.

2 hours ago - Health

Novavax says COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in Phase 3 trial

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Novavax, a Maryland biotechnology company, announced Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine was 90.4% effective in its Phase 3 trial, including against coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The study of 29,960 participants in the U.S. and Mexico found the shot was safe and highly effective, paving the way for the FDA to clear a 4th vaccine for emergency use by the end of the year.