Russia said Tuesday it was blocking access to dozens of European media outlets, including AFP websites, in response to the EU slapping broadcasting bans on several Russian outlets last month.

France's Le Monde, Germany's Der Spiegel and Spain's El Mundo were among the media outlets Russia named, as was the website of digital newspaper Politico.

The announcement comes after the European Union unveiled a ban on four Kremlin-controlled media outlets in May, accusing them of being "instrumental in bringing forward and supporting" Moscow's Ukraine offensive.

Russia denounced the bloc's move as "politically motivated" and said it had been forced "to take mirror and proportionate countermeasures".

Its foreign ministry listed 81 websites in 25 EU countries and some that operate across Europe that were being banned.

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They included AFP's homepage afp.com and its client portal afpforum.com.

The ban will restrict people inside of Russia from accessing the outlets' online resources and broadcasting materials, the foreign ministry said, without providing detail.

European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova called the ban "nonsense retaliation".

"No, propaganda outlets funded by Russia to spread disinformation as part of Russia's military doctrine are not the same as independent media," she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Italy, whose state broadcaster RAI was included on the list, condemned the move as "unjustified".

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As a result of the sabotage, Russian weapons and food warehouses were destroyed, and twenty Russian servicemen received severe burns.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters the move showed the Russian government was "afraid of their own people hearing the truth about Russia's actions". 

Russia said it would revise the restrictions if sanctions on Russian media were lifted.

"The Russian side had repeatedly warned at various levels that politically motivated harassment of domestic journalists and unjustified bans on Russian media in the EU area would not go unanswered," its foreign ministry said.

- Crackdown -

The Kremlin has long accused Brussels of targeting Russian journalists in the EU.

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The EU argues the Kremlin has used its state-run outlets to spread disinformation and propaganda, including about Ukraine.

In 2022, the European Union blocked the Kremlin's flagship 24-hour news channel RT, a move Moscow denounced as an attack on press freedom.

Russia has since blocked internet access to most Western-based news outlets and social media networks like Facebook, as it seeks to block any independent information about the conflict.

Access remains possible through a virtual private network (VPN).

Domestic media that are critical of President Vladimir Putin's rule or his Ukraine offensive have been banned, harassed and outlawed, and many independent media outlets have shut down.

Lawmakers have also introduced heavy prison sentences for those deemed to have spread "false information" about the armed forces, a move that sparked an exodus of foreign journalists from the country in the first weeks of the conflict.

US citizen Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter due to face trial in Russia this week, has spent over a year in jail on spying charges that his employer and the White House have called completely fabricated.

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US-Russian journalist Alsu Kurmasheva has also been detained in a Russian prison since last year after she was arrested on charges of breaching Moscow's "foreign agents" law while visiting the country for a family emergency.

Russia was ranked 162 out of 180 in the 2024 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

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