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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hardline Papers Defy Closure Threat

Two pro-communist newspapers on Thursday denounced ultimatums from the government telling them to sack their editors and change their names, or else be closed down forever.

"It's blackmail and scare tactics", said Yury Nikolayev, deputy editor of Sovetskaya Rossia in an interview Thursday.

Pravda and Sovetskaya Rossia both received ultimatums from the Information Ministry on Wednesday, giving them just a few hours to replace their editors - Gennady Seleznev of Pravda and Valentin Chikin of Sovetskaya Rossia - and change their editorial lines.

The faxed ultimatums, one of which was shown to The Moscow Times, also told the papers to find new names. That demand was especially galling for Pravda, which has had its name, which translates as "Truth", since it was founded as a Bolshevik newspaper in St. Petersburg in 1912.

Both papers were ordered to stop printing and had their bank accounts frozen when the state of emergency was declared on Sunday Oct. 3.

But they were not closed down altogether and staff continued to go to work. Both papers had become bastions of conservative opinion in recent years and supported the former parliament in its struggle with President Boris Yeltsin.

Editorial boards and managements of both Pravda and Sovetskaya Rossia held emergency meetings Thursday to discuss how best to defy the ultimatum.

"We are an independent newspaper and the government has no right to interfere", said Nikolayev, whose removal was also demanded in the ultimatum. "We have applied to the Public Prosecutor to have this declared illegal".