Ms Rainsford was told by officials that her expulsion from Russia was in retaliation for Britain’s decision to ban a Russian journalist from the state TASS news agency from working in the UK in 2019. The BBC journalist, who has reported from Russia for two decades, first found out about her changed status, when she flew to Moscow from Belarus on August 10. She was told that she had been designated a national security threat by the FSB security agency and was being denied a visa “for life.”
Her departure comes as the Kremlin continues to crackdown on journalists in the lead up to parliamentary elections in September.
In her final dispatch, Ms Rainsford spoke to Russian journalists about the authorities suppression of press freedoms.
She warned that the country was “moving in reverse” when it came to protecting free speech.
“I am leaving a country I first came to as the Soviet Union fell apart, when free speech, or freedoms were new and precious,” she said.
“It feels like today’s Russia is moving in reverse.”
The BBC said it would continue its efforts to persuade Moscow to reverse its decision.
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The UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has said “Russian journalists continue to work freely in the UK, provided they act within the law and the regulatory framework.”
Ms Rainsford recounted how Russian officials reassured her that the decision against her was “nothing personal.”
“They kept on referring to it as a reciprocal move but they refused to even engage with the fact that I had been labelled a national security threat,” she said in her report.