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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ORT Chief Denies Imminent Exit

ORT Russian Public Television head Sergei Blagovolin on Friday denied media reports that he was soon to leave his post as general director to be replaced with NTV independent television chief Igor Malashenko.

"I am certainly not planning to leave in the near future," he said in a telephone interview. "In half a year we'll see what happens but for now I'm very much in place."

He added however that were he to leave his post, Malashenko was at the top of the list of possible replacements.

"He is the president of NTV, which is a very successful company," he said. "We have absolutely the same political ideas and views -- we are on the same board [of advisors to president Boris Yeltsin] and we completely agree on many points."

NTV press spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova declined to comment on the reports.

Both men are open Yeltsin supporters who have made their pro-government leanings increasingly clear since the beginning of the presidential campaign.

Malashenko was media consultant to Yeltsin's election team and his company ran overtly pro-Yeltsin coverage of the campaign. Shortly after the election NTV gained exclusive access to Russian Channel 4.

Blagovolin was selected last year by presidential decree specifically to promote Yeltsin in the election campaign.

"It was a political decision," he said of his appointment.

Blagovolin said that if and when he leaves ORT, he might enter politics directly, adding that to a certain extent he already considers himself a politician.

"At the moment I sepnd at least half of my time in political life and the other half managing this huge company," he said.

"It's not a secret that I'm a strong supporter of President Yeltsin and it's necessary to be with him because he is the choice of Russia. To be completely frank, we have a very simple choice: Yes, or no? Black, or white? Live, or die? I say 'yes', I say 'white,' I say 'live.' That is why I am not afraid of not being completely objective."

Asked about reports that former arch-enemies ORT chairman of the board Boris Berezovsky and NTV principal backer, MOST-Bank chief Vladimir Gusinsky, have formed a political union which could affect Malashenko's potential switch to ORT, Blagovolin denied that possible links between the two media magnates had any effect on his company.

"They are friends privately," he said. "As for a political union, I have no idea what that is. This is not a kind of junta, and it does not affect ORT. He has not applied for my job. He has an excellent job already," Blagovolin said, adding that Malashenko recently called him to ask why the press were writing about him as a potential successor to Blagovolin.

Blagovolin said he was initially appointed for the duration of the presidential campaign, adding that his position has since been indefinitely extended.