Putin
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Russian President Vladimir Putin • Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia, October 21, 2021
The removal of two YouTube channels of RT's German language service (RT DE), once described by its editor-in-chief as a "declaration of media war against Russia," is an infringement on freedom of speech, Vladimir Putin has said.

Speaking on Thursday to gathered experts and journalists at the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, the Russian president noted that RT DE has been prevented from working in Germany in numerous ways, but warned against any retaliation that could cause more issues.

"As far as a response is concerned, we have to be careful," Putin said, calling the restrictions against RT DE a "mistake," but appearing to suggest that it could be worked out and rejecting the idea of an immediate response.

"Reciprocal measures should not be counterproductive," he said.

In September, RT DE's main YouTube channel, as well as another channel of the service called Der Fehlende Part (DFP), were deleted after the social media giant accused them of trying to circumvent community guidelines.

The platform initially gave RT DE a strike for what it perceived as "medical misinformation" in four videos related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. YouTube, however, did not explain what exactly violated the community rules. The strike meant RT DE could not post any videos or live streams for seven days. During that time RT DE's videos were still shared on DFP (though not the clips that received the strike). The social media giant still accused both channels of working together to circumvent the rules.

At Valdai, RT's Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan asked the president why Deutsche Welle can cover events in Russia, but RT DE can't cover the goings-on in Germany.

Putin said:
"I know they did everything to prevent you from working there. Of course, they infringe on freedom of speech - this is bad."
But at the same time, he continued, it's essential to spread the information about the crackdown and "the interest for you [RT] will increase."

Russia's Foreign Ministry has recently alleged that YouTube acted not out of adherence to its community policies but with the "obvious connivance, if not the insistence," of German authorities. Germany, for its part, denied having anything to do with the removal of the channels, saying YouTube was a private company and it was their decision.

Earlier this month, RT filed a formal appeal with YouTube over the deletion of its German-language channels, arguing the action was not only undeserved but ran contrary to the US-based platform's own rules.

Their letters to the Google-owned platform said:
"The owners of the RT DE and Der Fehlende Part channels acted in good faith, in full compliance with the rules set by YouTube. We believe that the blocking and deletion [of the RT DE and DFP channels] is therefore unwarranted."