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New Publisher For Forbes' Russian Edition Wants Less Politics, More Business

Aleksandr Fedotov is the president of Artcom Media group, which recently bought a controlling stake in the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.
Aleksandr Fedotov is the president of Artcom Media group, which recently bought a controlling stake in the Russian edition of Forbes magazine.

Forbes magazine's Russian-language edition, which gained a reputation for muckraking political reporting in Russia's tough journalism environment, is getting a new editorial approach just weeks after being sold by its German owners: less politics.

Publisher Aleksandr Fedotov, who bought the magazine and several others from German publishing giant Axel Springer last month, said in an interview published on October 16 that he wanted to steer the publication more exclusively toward business and financial news.

"We won't be interfering with Forbes' editorial policy, but we want it to be a magazine about business and economics," Fedotov was quoted as telling the business-news portal RBK. "It's a little over the top politically for Russia. We will be trying to write about things of interest to our readers. I'm convinced that politics interest them to a lesser degree."

Fedotov's company, Artcom Media, bought Forbes and other titles from Axel Springer's Russian portfolio in the wake of a Kremlin-backed law passed last year that limited foreign ownership of media companies to 20 percent.

The law was the latest in a string of tough regulations that have severely curtailed independent broadcasters and publishers in Russia. Russian regulators have also started tightening the vise on Internet outlets as well, and the platforms that host them, such as social-media companies Facebook and VKontakte.

The law has resulted in Kremlin-connected businessmen like Alisher Usmanov and Yury Kovalchuk taking control of publications and broadcasters, many of which have robust audiences.

Forbes Russia gained notoriety not long after it started publishing in 2004 by printing a list of Russia's 100 richest people, something that hadn't been done before in Russian media.

In July 2004, its founding editor, Paul Klebnikov, was gunned down near the magazine's Moscow offices. Three men were convicted of the killing, but later acquitted. It's widely believed none of the three were the masterminds of the killing.

In a posting on Facebook, Leonid Bershidsky, who took over as publisher briefly after Klebnikov's death and went on to found a number of Russian news sites, reacted to Fedotov's interview with scathing disdain.

"Where do they crawl out from? From under some refrigerator or some...mouse ventilation shaft?" he wrote.

With reporting by Mike Eckel, RBK, and Forbes Russia
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