Claims by Russian broadcaster RT that the Royal Bank of Scotland group’s NatWest arm has frozen its UK bank accounts have been denied by the bank.
RBS said that it had not closed any accounts belonging to RT, formerly known as Russia Today and claimed that a redacted letter from NatWest published on the broadcaster’s website, related to a different company.
It is believed the company involved is a supplier of the firm with no obvious financial links to RT.
RT earlier accused the bank of curbing “freedom of speech” and claimed that the alleged decision could be the beginning of new British sanctions against Russia.
RBS insisted that RT’s bank accounts “remain open”.
RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said on her Twitter account: “They closed our accounts in Britain. All of them. ‘Decision not to be discussed’. Long live freedom of speech!”
She added in an interview: “Hypothetically, this may have something to do with new British and American sanctions against Russia, which may be announced soon. It may not. Our legal department is dealing with the issue now.”
In a post on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: “Britain on its way out of the EU abandoned all its commitments to protect the freedom of speech.”
A spokeswoman for RBS said: “These decisions are not taken lightly. We are reviewing the situation and are contacting the customer to discuss this further. The bank accounts remain open and are still operative.”
In the letter from NatWest, which appeared on RT’s website but with the customer name redacted, the bank wrote: “We have recently undertaken a review of your banking arrangements with us and reached the conclusion that we will no longer provide these facilities.”
It added: “We assure you that we have reached this decision after careful consideration, however our decision is final and we are not prepared to enter into any discussion in relation to it.”
Prime Minister Theresa May’s office had earlier denied any involvement in any banking matters relating to RT.
“It’s a matter for the bank and it’s for them to decide who they offer services to based on their own risk appetite,” a spokesman said.
On Sunday, it emerged that Britain was considering economic sanctions against the Syrian government and its supporters, including Russia, in response to the continued bombardment of Aleppo.
According to the latest set of accounts for Russia Today TV UK Ltd, filed with Companies House in February, the company had a profit of £670,047. It is entitled to exemption from filing full accounts under Section 477 of the Companies Act as a small company.
In August, state-funded news network Sputnik set up UK offices in Edinburgh, saying it wanted to “tell the untold” to British audiences.