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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

ORT Chief Seeks Help From Yeltsin




Under fire from Communists and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the director of state-controlled ORT television begged President Boris Yeltsin for protection Thursday in what he called a "battle for the president's chair."


"Colossal pressure has come down on ORT," wrote Igor Shabdurasulov, the national channel's general director, in the letter, which was distributed by Interfax.


The Communists and Luzhkov - likely participants in the 2000 presidential campaign - have apparently moved in on Russia's most-watched television channel as ORT minority stakeholder and former Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky loses his grip on the channel's news coverage.


"The reason for this is once again the battle for the president's chair, the battle for power, brought to a head by impatient and unscrupulous politicians, for whom the interests of Russia and its millions of citizens mean nothing, only their personal interests," Shabdurasulov said.


The channel is facing an attempt initiated by Communists deputies Wednesday to oust its correspondents from parliament and a bankruptcy suit filed last Friday in the Moscow arbitration court.


The offices and residence of Sergei Lisovsky, a controversial businessman whose agency holds a monopoly on selling ORT advertising time, were ransacked by the tax police last week. His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, was beaten unconscious by unknown attackers Tuesday night and is in the hospital with a fractured skull and ribs.


Shabdurasulov accused the government of "inaction as the Communist-fascist Duma opposition" and the city court controlled by the Moscow mayor tried to gain leverage over the channel, which claims tens of millions of viewers. ORT played a crucial role in Yeltsin's 1996 re-election victory by focusing on Yeltsin's campaign and ignoring his opponent, Communist Gennady Zyuganov.


"Human blood is being shed," Shabdurasulov wrote in his letter. "It is as it was in 1993 - the battle for Ostankino is continuing," he added, referring to outright combat between Yeltsin supporters and backers of an old-guard parliament during a standoff between the president and the legislature that year.