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Dozhd Boss Says TV Channel Will Fight To Stay Open

Dozhd TV General Director Natalia Sindeyeva (left) and main investor Aleksandr Vinokurov attend a live news conference in the company studios in Moscow on February 4.
MOSCOW -- The director-general of Russia's top independent TV channel, known for its critical coverage of President Vladimir Putin, says her company will continue operations despite what the station describes as Kremlin pressure.

Natalya Sindeyeva told RFE/RL's Russian Service on February 4 that she and her team will do their best to sustain operations despite setbacks since their station aired a controversial poll that raised the ire of nationalists and others.

"We are not going to give up," Sindeyeva said. "We are definitely not going to shut down the channel -- or at least we will do everything possible so that this does not happen. We are not going to turn it into a website or a video channel. We will continue to make television and to search for ways to get the channel back on the air."

Sindeyeva reiterated her stance at a press conference in Moscow later in the day, saying that Dozhd will continue despite having lost several partners in recent days.

Sindeyeva also said Dozhd intends to expand its presence in the media arena via cooperation with Apple TV and similar systems operating in Russia.

Dozhd has been feeling the heat since conducting a poll last month that asked if the city of Leningrad should have surrendered to the Nazis in World War II instead of enduring a 900-day siege that saw more than 1 million people die.

Russian politicians and other prominent figures slammed the poll and called for Dozhd to be taken off the air.

Several television stations announced they would be canceling their contracts with the station, which Dozhd has called a state-orchestrated intimidation campaign.

On February 3, Dozhd's main satellite provider -- Tricolour TV -- said it would be dropping the channel from its program packages as of February 10.

Talking to journalists alongside Sindeyeva on February 4, Aleksandr Vinokurov, the co-owner of Dozhd TV, said Dozhd was ready to hold talks with its operators as long as necessary to persuade them to reestablish or continue cooperation.

"We decided, despite all the bewilderment around what is going on, to initiate and conduct talks with cable operators and with everyone who has influenced this process until we are able to return to distribution," Vinokurov said.
Dozhd TV employees broadcast from the station's Moscow studios in December 2011.
Dozhd TV employees broadcast from the station's Moscow studios in December 2011.

Vinokurov reiterated his view that the situation befalling Dozhd has been orchestrated by the Kremlin.

"We are absolutely confident that the cable operators have not made the decision to cut us off according to their own will because we know how profitable it is for them to have such channels as Dozhd in their packages," Vinokurov said. "We are absolutely convinced that the cable operators made this decision under pressure."

Vinokurov also said that, in a bid to remain open, Dozhd managers are offering the station's content to cable channels for free until the end of 2014.

Vinokurov added that the number of Dozhd's online subscriptions has doubled since the television station began having problems with its operators.

With reporting by and AFP