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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

Updated 57 mins ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

Olympics medal tracker

Data: International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. students fell 4 to 5 months behind during pandemic

An empty classroom in Pinole, Calif. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elementary school students in the U.S. ended the school year four to five months behind their expected level of academic achievement, according to a new report.

Why it matters: Months of school closures and often inferior remote education eroded what schoolchildren would have learned since the pandemic began, and caused some to go backwards.