NTV Drops Zhirinovsky Program

NTV television pulled a controversial program about presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky just hours before it was due to air, an NTV spokeswoman said Monday.

The program, which was supposed to air Saturday, was advertised in advance as a no-holds-barred look at the Liberal Democratic Party leader, including footage of him swearing in a nightclub and details about his brother's suicide.

NTV has a reputation for sensationalist crime programs -- the program was part of a series called "Russian Sensations." But investigative programs about politicians, particularly those who are seen as having the Kremlin's ear, are rare.

Zhirinovsky said the broadcast of the program would have broken the law.

"You can't show a program that only deals with one presidential candidate," he said in a statement Monday.

Under the law, presidential candidates are supposed to be afforded equal coverage on television.

Zhirinovsky had complained to the Central Elections Commission, the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor General's Office about the planned broadcast last week.

Kommersant reported Monday that the decision to pull it had been made by NTV head Vladimir Kulistikov.

The NTV spokeswoman insisted, however, that the program had been canceled for technical reasons. "The program did not go out as the head of the channel decided that it needed more work," said the spokeswoman, Maria Bezvorodova. "It was an ordinary working moment."

One of the country's most flamboyant politicians, Zhirinovsky, 61, is running for president for the third time. Despite his nationalist, combative rhetoric, Zhirinovsky and his party usually follow the Kremlin line in votes in the State Duma.