Russia Today news anchor Liz Wahl resigns live on air over Ukraine crisis

US-based Wahl said she could not work for a network that 'whitewashed' the actions of Russian leader Vladimir Putin

An American anchor for the Kremlin-funded news channel RT has quit on air and accused the network of "whitewashing" Moscow's military intervention in Crimea.

Liz Wahl, a Washington-based correspondent for RT-America, part of the network formerly known as Russia Today, told viewers on Wednesday she was resigning because of its coverage of President Vladimir Putin's actions in the Ukrainian region.

Veerng off script, Wahl said: "I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I'm proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth, and that is why, after this newscast, I'm resigning."

As the daughter of a military veteran and the wife of a military base physician the network's coverage of a potentially explosive crisis presented ethical and moral dilemmas, she said.

Wahl cited another RT host, Abby Martin, who made headlines on Tuesday when she declared: "Russian intervention in the Crimea is wrong." In a tweet she later called Martin "my girl" and commended her for going "spectacularly off-message".

Wahl, a self-described "Filipina-Hungarian-American", also alluded to Moscow's bloody intervention in Hungary in 1956. "Just spoke to grandparents who came to US as refugees escaping Soviets during Hungarian revolution. Amazing to hear amid new Cold War fears," she tweeted.

RT, a predominantly English-language network aimed at a global audience, broadcasts news, documentaries and talk shows with a distinctly pro-Russian slant. RT-America provides several hours of US-produced content a day, including a show hosted by former CNN star Larry King.

Unlike other international broadcasters who have reported the presence of Russian troops in Crimea the station has echoed the Kremlin line about the troops being local self-defence forces.

In a statement, RT denounced Wahl's actions as a "self-promotional" stunt. It drew a distinciton between her role as a newscaster and Martin's position as an opinion host.

"When a journalist disagrees with the editorial position of his or her organization, the usual course of action is to address those grievances with the editor, and, if they cannot be resolved, to quit like a professional. But when someone makes a big public show of a personal decision, it is nothing more than a self-promotional stunt," it said.

"It actually makes me feel sick that I worked there," Wahl told the Daily Beast.

She had planned the move for some time, she said. "When I came on board from the beginning I knew what I was getting into, but I think I was more cautious and tried to stay as objective as I could."


Rory Carroll in Los Angeles

The GuardianTramp

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