A BBC journalist said Saturday she had been told by the Russian government never to return to the country after reports that her visa would not be renewed.
Sarah Rainsford, who serves as a Moscow correspondent for the BBC, was given the news this week that she would have until the end of the month to leave the country, amid London’s refusal to allow Russian journalists to receive visas.
“I am being expelled,” Rainsford said in an interview with the BBC detailing the shock she felt over the decision. “I have been told [by Russian officials] that I cannot come back ever. It’s devastating personally.”
Rainsford told the news outlet that although the move from Russia seemed to be a technical one, she believes it was part of a diplomatic decision.
She also explained how storytelling in the country had become increasingly difficult, further describing her time in what she called an oppressive environment.
“I think this is a clear sign that things have changed. It’s another really bad sign about the state of affairs in Russia … another sign that Russia is closing in on itself,” she said.
The BBC journalist said she had worked in Russia, learning and studying it, for nearly a third of her life. She is currently completing her second stint in Moscow, Reuters reported.
The BBC has called on Moscow to reconsider not renewing Rainsford’s visa, however, Russia argues that it provided London fair warning regarding its response to blocking Russian journalists from entering Britain.