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Russia: Journalists Protest NTV Takeover

Moscow, 4 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Journalists at Russia's only independent nationwide television station, NTV, kept up protests today after a takeover by the state-dominated gas company Gazprom. Many of the station's journalists remained in NTV's headquarters overnight and staff barricaded one of the two entrances to the editorial offices. They were expecting the new managers to arrive at the station but have vowed to fight the takeover.

Earlier yesterday Gazprom used a controversial stockholder meeting to fill NTV's board with loyalists. Gazprom owns about fifty percent of NTV. It claims to be the controlling shareholder because some 20 percent more of stock is frozen in a court dispute over debts with NTV's parent company, Media-MOST. The owner of Media-MOST, Vladimir Gusinsky, is now awaiting an extradition ruling in Spain.

NTV's information officer Grigory Krichevsky said Gazprom is attempting to wrest control of the station.

"We know the situation very well. And we understand perfectly that the only reason for what is happening today on Namyotkin Street (location of the Gazprom offices) is to take control, political control of the only non-governmental nationwide TV company."

U.S. media (CNN, The "Washington Post") reports today that American media mogul Ted Turner is to buy some of the shares in Russia's NTV network that are owned by Vladimir Gusinsky.

The reports say the "outline of a deal" was reached yesterday as Russia's state-run Gazprom natural gas company took control of NTV.

Turner reportedly paid $225 million for the shares.

Turner is the founder of CNN, the all-news U.S. television channel.