The chief editor of Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy says an order dismissing a popular host who tweeted about the death of the Kremlin chief of staff's son is invalid.
Aleksei Venediktov's defiance has put his own job in jeopardy and raised tension between the station and the state a week after Ekho Moskvy, a prominent platform for antigovernment views, received an official warning over a program about Ukraine.
State-controlled gas giant Gazprom's media arm, Gazprom-Media, which owns Ekho Moskvy, said on November 6 that host Aleksandr Plyushchev was being dismissed "for violating the principles of professional ethics."
But Venediktov said later the same day that the order was "meaningless" and that Plyushchev would stay on the job.
He said the station's charter stipulates that its journalists can only be fired at the request of the chief editor.
Do you consider the death of Ivanov's son, who ran down and killed an old woman and sued her son-in-law, as proof that God exists?"Tweet by Ekho Moskvy host Aleksandr Plyushchev
Russian news agency RBK cited Gazprom-Media's board chairman, Mikhail Lesin, as saying it was "entirely possible" Venediktov could be fired if he refuses to accept Plyushchev's dismissal.
Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov's son Aleksandr, who avoided prosecution after he hit and killed an elderly woman while driving in Moscow in 2005, died on November 3. Media reports said he drowned in the United Arab Emirates.
Plyushchev wrote on Twitter on November 5: "Do you consider the death of Ivanov's son, who ran down and killed an old woman and sued her son-in-law, as proof that God exists?"
He later withdrew the tweet and apologized.
The fact that Aleksandr Ivanov escaped any serious consequences was seen by many Russians as evidence that high-level officials and their relatives are the beneficiaries of unequal justice.
Aleksandr Ivanov was deputy chairman of state-controlled Vneshekonombank, which announced his death in a statement on November 5 and suggested it was an accident but did not say how or where the 37-year-old had died.
Sergei Ivanov, a former Soviet KGB officer and Russian defense minister, is one of Putin's closest associates.
He has been Kremlin chief of staff since December 2011.