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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

TV Anchor Dorenko Pulled Off Air




Controversial ORT anchor Sergei Dorenko, pulled from his on-air job on the "Vremya" evening news program, is pondering what he'll do next. It's something he has had a lot of practice at.


It's the second time Dorenko has lost his slot in politically charged circumstances this year. The gravel-voiced anchor said he doesn't know why he was bumped Tuesday. But several observers said the on-again, off-again broadcaster's removal was purely political.


Dorenko, they say, is closely allied with politically connected tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who wields considerable influence over what goes on at ORT, despite controlling less than half the shares while the government owns 51 percent. Berezovsky's political influence has fallen, they say, and so Dorenko is out.


ORT officials refused to comment Wednesday on the move.


Dorenko said in an interview he was told he was removed "at the demand of the channel's management."


"I don't know what the motives of the management were," he said. "I'm looking back on the last three months, but just cannot understand why it happened."


Dorenko said Igor Shabdurasulov, the recently appointed head of ORT, offered him his former position hosting his weekly analytical show on the channel, which he quit in May to become the general producer of ORT's news service. He said he needs to think it over.


Dorenko returned to the screen Sept. 1, when he replaced anchorwoman Arina Sharapova. His return caused the resignation of ORT General Director Ksenia Ponomaryova, who said the decision was made without her participation by Berezovsky and Valentin Yumashev, then Kremlin chief of staff. Yumashev, another reputed Berezovsky associate, also lost his job this week when he was fired by President Boris Yeltsin.


In the past 13 years Dorenko has worked for all the major channels in Russia, including ORT, NTV, RTR, TV6 and Ren TV, but never stayed at any one more than two years. A military interpreter by training, he also worked as a free-lance correspondent for CNN's Latin American bureaus, covering - in Spanish - the Russian presidential election in 1996. The same year he returned to ORT - for the third time.


He stands out for his deep voice, steely gaze into the camera and slow, dramatic delivery. But that's not what keeps him at the center of political attention.


During his stint with a weekly show on ORT - like the nightly news, also called Vremya - he earned himself several lawsuits and frequent charges of being paid by Berezovsky for his televised attacks on First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, architect of Russia's privatization program, and banking, oil and metals tycoon Vladimir Potanin, one of the chief beneficiaries of that program.


Chubais and Potanin were Berezovsky's chief rivals, Chubais for influence in the Kremlin and Potanin in business.


Dorenko brought into the spotlight the case of the Russian chemical factory Azot, accusing Uneximbank of embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars from the factory. He also led a media charge - joined by Berezovsky's Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper - against Potanin after the controversial sale of 25 percent of the state telecommunications company Svyazinvest to an Uneximbank-led consortium.


His removal means Berezovsky's power is coming to its end," said Andrei Piontkovsky, a political analyst with the Center for Strategic Studies.


"Of all Berezovsky's men, [Dorenko] was the most talented," said Piontkovsky, a frequent critic of Berezovsky and Russia's oligarchs. "On behalf of Berezovsky, he convincingly led the war against Chubais and Potanin."