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Russia: Talks Between Gazprom, NTV Staffers Break Down

Moscow, 6 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Talks between staff members of Russia's NTV television network and its new managers broke down today. Representatives of the state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom brought in to direct the network said NTV journalists were intransigent in their demands. Alfred Kokh, the head of the Gazprom media division, said NTV journalists, headed by ousted General Director Yevgeny Kiselyov, had presented him with an ultimatum which included sending a joint message to President Vladimir Putin.

Kiselyov says the Kremlin instigated the Gazprom takeover earlier this week to bring Russia's only independent nationwide TV network under control.

NTV's newly appointed general director, Boris Jordan, said Gazprom representatives left the meeting after about an hour.

The unsuccessful meeting came as Western governments have begun to express concern over the fate of Russia's only nationwide independent network and media freedom under Putin, who has remained silent about the conflict.

International press watchdog organizations and the U.S. State Department have shown anxiety. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says he will discuss NTV during talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

In a separate development, Gazprom officials said today that financial intermediaries representing U.S. TV executive Ted Turner and Gazprom discussed yesterday in London Turner's proposal to invest a reported $225 million in NTV shares. Turner, representing a group of international investors, says he wants to insure NTV's editorial independence.

Turner issued a statement today urging NTV employees to remain calm while his negotiations continue.

(Please see a profile of newly appointed NTV General Director Boris Jordan in Russia: NTV Shareholders Appoint Controversial Businessman As New Director).