Gazprom occupies NTV headquarters

New York, April 17, 2001 — After a tense 11-day standoff, the state-dominated Gazprom corporation succeeded in occupying the headquarters of NTV, formerly Russia’s only independent national television station, according to international press reports and local sources.

At 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 14, Boris Jordan, a controversial American financier appointed by Gazprom to head NTV, arrived at the station’s headquarters with a court order. Security officers hired by Gazprom then took control of the station’s offices and control room, which had been occupied by dissident NTV journalists.

The crisis began on April 3, when NTV creditor Gazprom staged a boardroom coup that wrested control of the network from media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky, who is currently in Spain fighting a Russian government effort to extradite him on corruption charges. NTV journalists refused to recognize the new Gazprom management team’s authority, and a standoff ensued.

Early Saturday morning, Jordan and other Gazprom-appointed officials met with NTV staff and accepted over 40 resignations, including 10 journalists and five news presenters. By 10 a.m. the Gazprom-controlled NTV was back on the air with a skeleton newscast.

Meanwhile, a group of some 15 former NTV journalists led by ousted general director Yevgeny Kiselyov moved swiftly to revive some of their former news programs at the cable station TNT, which is also controlled by Gusinsky.

On Monday, April 16, a group of dissident shareholders in Gusinsky’s Media-Most holding company, including Gazprom, shut down the influential daily Segodnya, which was considered to be one of Moscow’s most liberal newspapers.

That same day, Russian tax police also moved against TNT by filing tax evasion charges against the station’s chief accountant. And on Tuesday, a Media-Most official acting on behalf of the dissident shareholders fired the editor of Media-Most’s weekly newsmagazine Itogi, a joint venture with the U.S. magazine Newsweek. Itogi staffers were locked out of their offices and told that they could either resign or be fired.