Russia blocks access to The Bell news website in media crackdown

Russia on Sunday blocked access to The Bell, a news outlet founded by one of Russia’s top journalists, the latest website to be taken offline as Moscow cracks down on independent media.

Russia has blocked dozens of news sites since it invaded Ukraine last year, often accusing them of publishing “fake” news about what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

The Bell mainly covers business news and was one of the few remaining independent media websites accessible after the authorities blocked Mediazona, Meduza, and Novaya Gazeta.

It said last year it was going to stop covering the conflict in Ukraine, citing the danger to its journalists, but continued to pub-lish stories about the invasion’s effects on the economy.

It was founded in 2017 by Yelizaveta Osetinskaya, who formerly edited Vedomosti and the Russian edition of Forbes.

Both Osetinskaya and The Bell had already been labelled “foreign agents” — entities subject to increased scrutiny by the authorities. The Bell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia’s foreign ministry on Friday cautioned Western journalists that if they behaved unprofessionally and treated Russia or its people in a rude way then they would not be tolerated.

Russian officials say that some media have reported on the war in Ukraine in a deeply one-sided way, ignoring the roots of the con-flict and siding openly with Ukraine while displaying open and unconscious racism against Russians.

Rights groups say Russia is trying to control the entire media landscape by blocking independent news outlets, stopping their reporting on the war from reaching ordinary Russians.

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