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Pro-Kremlin TV host fumes over EU sanctions

© 2014 AFP

22 March 2014

A Russian television host famous for his aggressively pro-Kremlin stance has accused the European Union of attacking his freedom of speech after he featured in the latest EU sanctions blacklist.

Dmitry Kiselyov, who hosts a prime-time television news show and heads a state news agency, became the first journalist to face sanctions over his role in rallying public support for Russia's takeover of Crimea.

The EU in its sanctions list called him a "central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine."

"In my view, slapping sanctions on journalists is the lowest thing to do. It's a blatant attack on freedom of speech," Kiselyov said late Friday in an interview on Rossiya-1 television.

The bullish 59-year-old presents a highly opinionated news show and in a report on Crimea this month assured viewers that Russia could turn the United States into "radioactive ash".

He also heads a newly formed state news agency, Rossiya Segodnya (Russia Today), designed to be a tightly controlled mouthpiece for pro-Kremlin views.

Kiselyov blamed his inclusion in the blacklist on Moscow-based opposition figures, saying they had advised Western diplomats.

"These lists in my view are created in Moscow," Kiselyov said.

"We know their names, we know how they write and hand it into Western embassies," he said.

He cited Alexei Navalny, a charismatic anti-corruption campaigner and opponent of President Vladimir Putin who is now under house arrest on embezzlement charges.

"Navalny used to entertain himself by doing this," he said.

Kiselyov's bristlingly anti-Western performances on television, using simple dramatic language and sweeping hand gestures, have made him a cult figure, whose quotes are compiled on YouTube.

He has hurled vitriol at the West for supporting gay rights and praised Putin for giving US President Barack Obama a fresh crop of grey hair over Crimea.

An ambiguous figure, he previously presented a show called "Window on Europe" and worked for several years in Ukraine. Russian journalists recently spotted him on holiday in Amsterdam.

On Thursday, ex-US ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter that Kiselyov had taken part in a trip to the United States organised by the State Department.

Kiselyov on Friday confirmed he had gone on the trip to Washington several years ago while working as a senior television executive, saying he paid for his own travel.