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RT logo. File photo Alamy Stock Photo
Bryan MacDonald

Irish journalist named in new UK sanctions package over role in Russian media

The latest British sanctions target journalists, politicians, media companies and others.

THE UK HAS included an Irish journalist in its latest round of financial sanctions against Russia.

Brian McDonald (also known as Bryan MacDonald) is one of 31 individuals added to the British sanctions list under the new escalation announced today, which aims to further damage the Russian economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine. 

31 individuals and 32 entities, including multiple journalists and politicians who are Russian or working in Russia, have been added to the list.

McDonald was named over his role at RT (formerly known as Russian Today), a news network that receives funding from the Russian government, as the head of the Russia Desk for the English-language edition of

Another journalist of the same name worked as Western News correspondent with Independent News and Media – now Mediahuis Ireland – until 2014, but the two are separate people and are not connected.

The Financial Sanctions Notice outlines: “RT is owned or controlled by ANO TVNOVOSTI, which is or has been involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia by carrying on business as a Government of Russia-affiliated entity and carrying on business in a strategically significant sector to the Government of Russia.”

“ANO TV-NOVOSTI was designated by the United Kingdom on 31 March 2022.

“Therefore, as an employee of RT, McDonald is a member of, or associated with, a person involved in destabilising Ukraine or undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty or independence of Ukraine, or obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia.”

In a statement to The Journal, McDonald said: “I just think it’s really sad. And it reflects badly on the British government, which claims to have respect for press freedom.”

He said it was “particularly troubling given the current Prime Minister is a journalist himself and he took the same sort of nuanced approach to Russia before he achieved high office”.

He said he found “the targeting of myself with financial penalties to be beyond hilarious” and that he does not “have money to be placing in UK banks”.

McDonald said the UK inaccurately described him as the head of the Russia desk at RT instead of the head of the Russia desk at

“That’s totally separate to the television, which they banned (in another misguided decision),” he said.

“What makes this ruling even more ridiculous is that I ran the (online) desk to the highest professional standards. We did not engage in any disinformation. Our output was balanced and rigorously fact checked.

“Under no metric could it have been considered ‘propaganda.’ In fact, this seemed to upset some people as they wanted RT to fit a particular narrative.

“The desk was disbanded more than two months ago. Incidentally, almost all the other employees were Brits.”

Others subject to sanctions include employees of Channel One, a state-owned Russian outlet, which had described the invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation”.

The UK Government has sanctioned war correspondents embedded with Russian forces in Ukraine, including Evgeny Poddubny, a war correspondent for the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company; Alexander Kots, a war correspondent for Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda; and Dmitry Steshin, a Russian journalist and special correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda.

All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting will face sanctions, along with other media companies such as InfoRos, a news agency spreading “destabilising disinformation about Ukraine”; SouthFront, a disinformation website; and the Strategic Culture Foundation, an online journal spreading disinformation about the invasion.

In early March, the European Union banned RT broadcasts as part of its sanctions against Russia.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that the bloc was “taking an important step against Putin’s manipulation operation and turning off the tap for Russian state-controlled media” in Europe.

The ban applied to RT’s signals via satellite, cable, apps or the internet and suspended their licences in the EU.

RT’s subsidiary channels broadcasting in English, German, French and Spanish were also banned.

In Ireland, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said at the time: “EU sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, already the most extensive ever, continue to be expanded. These include the banning of Russian media outlets disseminating disinformation in the EU.” 

Additional reporting by Press Association