Russia’s Tsargrad TV ends conversations with Google about YouTube block

Tsargrad TV, a news channel owned by a sanctioned Russian businessman, said it abandoned talks with Google to unlock its YouTube account and on Monday accused the American group of dragging its feet in negotiations.

Google is the target of a Moscow warrant that forces it to unblock the YouTube account of Tsargrad TV, an Orthodox Christian channel owned by Konstantin Malofeev, which is under US and EU financial sanctions, but appealed the ruling in May .

The appeal hearing was supposed to take place on Monday, but has now been pushed back to Sept. 20, both parties in the case said. Tsargrad TV said the postponement was to give the court more time to familiarize itself with the new documents brought in by Google.

The dispute with YouTube is one of several instances where US technology and social media giants have drawn the ire of the Russian state. Russia fined Google and others for not deleting content it deems illegal, as well as other offenses, including failure to locate user data.

Tsargrad TV said on Monday that Google’s lawyers were not engaging in constructive conversation. “There was a feeling that Google was deliberately prolonging any negotiation process and dragging its feet,” the company said in a statement.

In response to a request for comment, Google (part of Alphabet) said only that the hearing was pushed back to September 20th.

Tsargrad TV said YouTube blocked its account in July 2020 without providing a reason. Google said at the time that it has a policy of suspending accounts that violate sanctions or trade restriction rules.

In April, the Moscow Arbitration Court said that Google must restore the Tsargrad account or face a daily fine of RUB 100,000 (about Rs. 1 lakh), which would double every week Google fails to comply. These fines have not yet been applied pending the outcome of the appeal.

Malofeev was placed under US and EU sanctions in 2014 on allegations that he financed pro-Moscow separatists fighting in Ukraine, which he denies. Russia considers such Western sanctions illegal.

© Thomson Reuters 2021


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