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Russia-backed RT America shuts down, lays off staff

Russia's President Vladimir Putin. (Alexei Nikolsky/Russian Presidential Press and Information Office/TASS/Abaca Press/TNS)
March 04, 2022

RT America, a U.S.-based news channel backed by Russia, is ending production and laying off most of its staff, a memo obtained by CNN revealed on Thursday.

According to the outlet, the message was sent out by T&R Productions, which is the production company behind the Russian state-funded channel. The general manager of T&R Productions, Misha Solodovnikov, told personnel that the company would be “ceasing production” at every location “as a result of unforeseen business interruption events.”

“Unfortunately, we anticipate this layoff will be permanent, meaning that this will result in the permanent separation from employment of most T&R employees at all locations,” Solodovnikov wrote.

T&R Productions has offices in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., but the decision means RT America has effectively ended, CNN reported.  

“We are sad and disappointed that our groundbreaking channel RT America had to go off the air after more than 10 years, and that the company that supplied much of its content, T&R Productions, had to cease most of its operations, due to challenging external circumstances,” RT’s deputy editor-in-chief Anna Belkina told CNN in a statement. “However, we are working hard to find ways that its staff, which has for many years produced award-winning news and programming content, can remain within RT’s international family.”

On Wednesday, Washington, D.C.-based employees of RT America were notified of an all-staff meeting that would take place the following day, an email obtained by CNN showed.

At the Thursday gathering, Solodovnikov announced the end of production, a person who was at the meeting told CNN.

“The meeting was all of about two minutes,” the attendee said, adding Solodovnikov promised two months’ pay for each laid-off employee.  

“A lot of people were shocked,” the attendee added. “A lot of people were crying.”

A host for RT America, who requested anonymity when speaking with CNN, said she was “heartbroken” watching the entire staff react to the news that “their jobs were no more.”

“I have never felt more heartbroken as they have nothing to do with this conflict and seriously were just trying to make a decent living to provide for their families,” the host said.

Roku, a company that sells products that allow users to stream online content, also announced it was banning RT America.

Adding to U.S. actions being taken against Russia this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the formation of a task force dedicated to enforcing sanctions on Russian entities that President Joe Biden’s administration has imposed due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.