Putin on Russia Today
Russian President Vladimir Putin gives an interview to Russia Today Reuters

Bank accounts of Kremlin-funded broadcaster Russia Today (RT) have been frozen in the UK, according to the network's chief executive.

NatWest Bank, which held the company's UK accounts, said it would no longer have the broadcaster among its clients, RT reported. It did not provide a reason for its decision, according to the broadcaster.

"Our accounts were closed in Britain. All our accounts," tweeted the network's editor in chief Margarita Simonyan, adding the decision was final. "Long live freedom of speech!" she said.

A UK Treasury spokeswoman said the department will provide a statement on the account closures later today. A spokesman for NatWest, which is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group, declined to comment on the reports.

Critics have long accused the RT network of spreading disinformation and propaganda. In June, it was accused of censoring footage showing Russian planes in Syria equipped with banned cluster-bombs.

The network was sanctioned in 2015 by Ofcom for biased and misleading reports on the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine.

The same year, the British branch of Spanish bank BBVA blocked funds paid to RT after sanctions were imposed by the EU against Dmitry Kiselyov, the head of the Rossiya Segodnya Russian state media conglomerate.

On Sunday (16 October), the US and UK warned Russia that it faced further economic sanctions if the bombing of Aleppo continues.

The NatWest accounts of the Iranian government funded Press TV news network were frozen in 2011, amid claims it was broadcasting regime propaganda.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, wrote on Facebook after the UK account closures: "It looks like, as it leaves the EU, London has decided to leave behind all its obligations towards freedom of speech. As they say, best to start a new life without bad habits."

Ukip MEP David Coburn criticised the decision: "The Establishment, obviously want to restrict freedom of speech and diversity in media," he said in a statement. Coburn has previously called for closer cooperation between the UK and Russia in Syria.

It comes amid warnings that Russia is seeking to open a new front in its information war against the West on British soil.

Recently former Soviet Communist Party mouthpiece Pravda announced it would be opening offices in Edinburgh and London, months after Russian state news agency Sputnik opened offices in the Scottish capital.

Defence secretary Michael Fallon has warned British citizens not to be duped by Russian propaganda.