MOSCOW Russian state news organisation Rossiya Segodnya said on Friday it objected to a Reuters article it said had falsely claimed that Kremlin-backed media had tried to influence the 2016 U.S. election.
A Reuters spokesperson said the news agency stood by the story which reported exclusively on April 19 that a Russian government think tank controlled by Vladimir Putin had developed a plan to swing the election in favour of Donald Trump by getting several state-backed media outlets to produce positive reports on Trump.
Three current and four former U.S. officials said Kremlin-backed TV channel RT and the Sputnik news agency were among state-backed news outlets which the Kremlin had instructed to weigh in on Trump’s side and to try to undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system.
Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Rossiya Segodnya and RT criticized the Reuters story on social media on Friday. She linked to an article by the RIA news agency, which along with Sputnik, is owned by Rossiya Segodnya.
RIA quoted Simonyan as saying: “Reuters writes that it knows of seven guys who swear that they have seen a secret Russian report with their own eyes. Or even two reports. Give Reuters an Oscar for best screen play, they’ve earned it.”
Simonyan did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for further comment sent via RT after business hours in Moscow.
Separately, an RT spokesman in London said Reuters had erroneously stated that RT had not responded to a pre-publication request for comment. The Reuters spokesperson said the agency did send an email requesting comment. The RT spokesman said it was sent to the wrong email address.
In addition, Simonyan said that Rossiya Segodnya would not now sign a contract with Reuters to buy video footage “because they lie.”
An agreement for Reuters to supply Rossiya Segodnya with video footage from May 1 had already been agreed, but would not now be signed, RIA reported.
When asked to comment on the matter, the Reuters spokesperson said Reuters did not discuss clients or the terms of their contracts.
Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. intelligence allegations that it tried to meddle in the U.S. election, saying it is the victim of an organised anti-Russian campaign designed to ensure that Trump will find it impossible to repair relations with Moscow, which are languishing at a post Cold War low.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Toni Reinhold)