US anchor for Russia Today quits over Crimea 'invasion'

An American news anchor for television station Russia Today has announced her resignation during a live broadcast, saying that she cannot be part of an organisation "funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin".

The dramatic resignation of Liz Wahl, who is based in the Washington bureau of the Kremlin-funded channel, comes just a day after it was revealed another Russia Today anchor would be sent by the broadcaster to Crimea to "better her knowledge" after she spoke out against what she called Russia's military invasion in Ukraine.

In a live broadcast on Wednesday, US time, Wahl began by referring to the controversial stance taken by her colleague, Abby Martin, also based in Washington, who had shocked mostly pro-Russian viewers earlier in the week by announcing that "Russia was wrong" in sending its troops to Crimea

"Last night, Russia Today made international headlines when one of our anchors went on the record and said Russian intervention in Crimea was wrong," Wahl began.

"Indeed, as a reporter on this network, I face many ethical and moral challenges."

Wahl explained that her grandparents had fled Soviet oppression during the Hungarian revolution and arrived in the US as refugees.

Her other grandparents had witnessed the "daily grind of poverty", she said.

"I'm the daughter of a veteran," Wahl said.

"My partner is a physician at a military base, where he sees every day the first-hand accounts of the ultimate prices that people pay for this country, and that is why personally I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin.

"I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why after this newscast I'm resigning."

The English-language Russia Today is widely perceived as the voice of the Kremlin, and Reporters Without Borders describes it as a "step of the state to control information".

It is often anti-American in its coverage and has been accused of ignoring a number of human rights abuses in the country, as well as controversial issues such as the prison sentences given to punk band Pussy Riot.

Earlier in the week, Martin had addressed the camera in unscripted remarks at the end of the station's Breaking the Set segment.

"Just because I work here, for RT, doesn't mean I don't have editorial independence and I can't stress enough how strongly I am against any military intervention in sovereign nations' affairs," she said.

"I will not sit here and apologise or defend military aggression."

However, later in the 75-second clip, she admitted gaps in her knowledge, saying: "I don't know as much as I should about Ukraine's history or the cultural dynamics of the region, but what I do know is that military intervention is never the answer."

Russia Today's official statement in relation to Martin's stance said: "Contrary to the popular opinion, RT doesn't beat its journalists into submission, and they are free to express their own opinions, not just in private but on the air. This is the case with Abby's commentary on the Ukraine.

"We respect her views, and the views of all our journalists, presenters and program hosts, and there will be absolutely no reprimands made against Ms Martin.

"In her comment Ms Martin also noted that she does not possess a deep knowledge of reality of the situation in Crimea. As such we'll be sending her to Crimea to give her an opportunity to make up her own mind from the epicentre of the story."

Martin told the Telegraph: "I am not going to Crimea despite the statement RT has made."

Russia Today has not yet responded to Wahl's resignation.

smh.com.au with The Telegraph, London

The story US anchor for Russia Today quits over Crimea 'invasion' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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