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Journalists from Russia’s last independent news network are fleeing the country

By Brian Stelter and Bianna Golodryga, CNN

Journalists from the last remaining independent news network in Russia have left the country for their own safety, one day after Russia instituted a digital roadblock against the network.

The country’s Prosecutor General’s Office issued an order on Tuesday to restrict access to both TV Rain, also known as Dozhd, and a radio station, Radio Echo, also known as Echo of Moscow.

Then on Wednesday, TV Rain’s Editor-in-Chief Tikhon Dzyadko announced on Telegram that he and his family, along with the editorial staff, have left Russia.

“After the blocking of Dozhd’s website, Dozhd’s social media accounts, and the threat against some employees, it is obvious that the personal safety of some of us is at risk,” Dzyadko said Wednesday.

A day later, Echo of Moscow announced it was shutting down.

“By a majority vote of the Board of Directors of Echo of Moscow, a decision was made to liquidate the radio channel and the website of Echo of Moscow,” it said in a statement on its website.

Most media outlets in Russia have followed state orders to toe Vladimir Putin’s line, for example by not calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an “invasion.” The global live-stream of Russia Today, for example, refers to it as a “special operation,” parroting Putin’s words, instead of “war.”

TV Rain and Echo of Moscow’s determination to air journalism in defiance of the Kremlin have made them targets.

TV Rain’s YouTube channel is still accessible outside Russia, but its website is not loading for Russian internet users, according to GlobalCheck, a service that tracks internet censorship.

The Echo of Moscow website appeared to be inaccessible in Russia on Thursday.

Dzyadko said on Telegram that TV Rain will appeal the decision by the prosecutor general’s office and continue to work “partly remotely.”

TV Rain employees expected that something like this could happen.

“We are facing a real threat. It’s getting harder to work here,” anchor Ekaterina Kotrikadze, who is married to Dzyadko, said from Moscow on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources.”

“They are trying to make us, you know, deliver the same message as they do,” she said, “but you know it’s impossible for us to work like this.”

On Tuesday, Dzyadko told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that “they don’t want us to spread real information about deaths among civilians, about deaths among Russian soldiers.”

Dzyadko acknowledged concern for his and his colleagues’ safety in Russia — foreshadowing their departures one day later. “Our audience is huge, and we have a responsibility for them. But also we have responsibility for our families,” he said. “So we need to think.”

In Washington, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said “we condemn the Kremlin’s shuttering of independent media outlets like these in an effort to stifle dissent against its premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustifiable attack against Ukraine.”

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