The video platform YouTube has blocked and removed the German channels of the Russian state media RT, sparking outrage among the Russian authorities, who are now threatening countermeasures.
A YouTube spokesperson confirmed the termination of two channels on Tuesday evening.
RT DE, the Russian news channel's German-language site, also reported on its own website that the channels had been blocked.
The editor-in-chief of Moscow-based RT, Margarita Simonyan, sharply criticized YouTube's move on Twitter and called the situation a "media war."
YouTube said it was recently brought to RT DE's attention that the state media outlet had violated the platform's coronavirus misinformation policy. RT DE was then temporarily barred from uploading videos to its YouTube channel.
According to YouTube, RT DE then used a second channel. YouTube called this an attempt to circumvent the ban and cited it as the reason the Russian outlet was blocked early on Tuesday evening.
RT considers itself "unjustly accused" and is considering legal action against the "arbitrary termination," a spokesman from RT DE said.
RT DE has some 600,000 subscribers on YouTube, the spokesman said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry called it an "unprecedented information attack committed with the obvious acquiescence of - if not at the urging by - the German side." No evidence was provided for this.
The ministry also threatened countermeasures against German journalists in Russia without giving specific details. The ministry said in a statement such steps were not only appropriate, but also necessary.
Moscow threatened on Wednesday to block the YouTube video platform.
YouTube could be blocked partially or entirely, Russian media regulator Roskomnadsor announced, according to the Interfax news agency.
Roskomnadsor had written to Google, which owns YouTube, demanding that all restrictions be lifted "as soon as possible." If Google does not react, the US corporation will receive a formal warning, it said.
Roskomnadsor said that Google had breached the "basic principles of the free distribution of information and unhindered access to it," arguing that this was an "act of censorship of Russian media."
RT - formerly Russia Today - intends to expand in Germany. A German-language TV programme is planned, with the launch was expected in December. However, it lacks a broadcasting licence. An attempt via Luxembourg authorities failed some time ago.
TV providers need a broadcasting licence for nationwide programmes in Germany.
RT is repeatedly criticized in the West as a propaganda tool of the Kremlin. The central accusation is that the channel spreads conspiracy theories and disinformation on behalf of the Russian state.
RT has several foreign-language programmes in its portfolio. RT DE has so far offered online reports in German. The content is distributed via the website and social media such as Facebook, Instagram and, up until now, YouTube.