One high-ranking RT DE staffer, Sebastian Range, wrote articles for the conspiracy theory magazine Hintergrund (Background) for years. His name is still listed on the website’s masthead. Some of his articles on the website promulgated wild theories about 9/11.
Florian Warweg, who, like Range, is a so-called “final editor” at RT DE, has been with the platform since the year of its founding. He used to be active with the far-left Left Party in Berlin’s Neukölln neighborhood, but these days, he’s best known for making a show of himself at the Federal Press Conference, the location where many important government- and policy-related press briefings are held in Berlin. And for his cynical tweets. In September, for example, he posted a photo showing Navalny surrounded by his family in a hospital bed at Charité Hospital in Berlin. He captioned it: “We present what is said to be the ‘deadliest nerve agent’ in the world: Novichok as a beauty treatment – whether for Yulia #Skripal or now #Navalny.”
Yulia Skripal was poisoned with Novichok in the UK in 2018 along with her father, former Russian intelligence colonel and later defector Sergei Skripal. Both barely survived the attack, and Navalny shared a similar fate last year. Russian intelligence services have been blamed for the poison attacks.
When asked about the three employees, RT DE wrote: Care has been taken to ensure there are “diverse opinions and views on our team.” Employees are required to adhere to “strict editorial standards and our commitment to objectivity and balance.” Apart from that, the media organization said that it does not comment on the private lives of its employees as a matter of principle.
In addition to staff, freelance writers also work for the platform, and they often comment on current events. These “guest editorials and opinion pieces don’t necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff,” the website states. In practice, though, items posted on the website seldom deviate from the company line.
They include, for example, people like conflict researcher and Russia proponent Leo Ensel, or Rainer Rupp, who in East Germany spied on NATO under the codename “Topas” on behalf of the Stasi secret police. Karin Kneissl, the former Austrian foreign minister and member of the right-wing populist Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), who Putin danced with when he attended her wedding in 2018, also contributes to RT DE. Other writers come from intellectual backgrounds that fall somewhere between the German Communist Party and the Marxist Junge Welt newspaper in Germany.
This does not discourage all German officials and politicians from speaking to reporters who work for RT DE. Rainer Wendt, for example, the controversial national head of the German Police Union, seems to have no reservations about the outlet and often provides comments on domestic security issues. So does Horst Teltschik, once a confidant to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and former chairman of the respected Munich Security Conference. Or Matthias Schepp, chairman of the board of the German-Russian Chamber of Commerce and a former DER SPIEGEL journalist.
Of the German political parties, however, it is primarily members of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) who like to lend their voices to RT DE. Be it party leader Tino Chrupalla, the right-wing extremist head of the AfD chapter in Thuringia Björn Höcke, or Waldemar Herdt, an ardent Russia fan and member of the federal parliament, all are welcome interviewees on the platform. When AfD politicians met with representatives of the Putin-backed Assad regime in Syria in 2019, RT DE provided fitting coverage of the event. AfD representatives didn’t answer questions submitted to the party about its contacts with RT DE.