Russian Stations Granted Reprieve in Ukraine

KIEV — Ukraine's broadcasting regulator granted a temporary reprieve Wednesday to two of three Russian channels ordered off the air in a dispute that prompted criticism from Moscow.

The National Broadcasting Council ordered cable companies to stop showing Channel One, Rossia and Ren-TV from Nov. 1, on grounds of legal irregularities and violations of advertising rules.

The ruling, based on a directive from the National Security Council chaired by President Viktor Yushchenko, was ignored by some cable companies. Programs from the stations, which have a large audience, were beamed largely uninterrupted to mainly urban audiences.

There was no explanation for Wednesday's ruling, but it legally allowed Channel One and Rossia to stay on the air. Ukrainian news reports said both stations promised to adopt measures to meet legal requirements.

Ren-TV, much smaller than the others, remains banned, though many cable subscribers still receive it.

"We are talking here about bringing foreign broadcasters into line with legislation and legal norms," council head Vitaly Shevchenko said.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week vowed to take action to ensure that Russian channels were able to broadcast.

"We will stand up for the rights of Russian television companies to broadcast their programs to Ukraine in line with general practice," he said at a news conference.

He added that if the ruling was based on legal grounds, "I am sure it can be resolved. Russian companies are ready to do that."