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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Presses Passed to City Control

One of Russia's largest printing presses, Moskovskaya Pravda, marked two milestones Thursday f its 75th anniversary and its transfer to the Moscow city government.

A resolution transferring ownership of the presses from the federal government to the city was one of the first ones signed by new Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov earlier this week.

It was a victory for Moscow's powerful Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who together with the editors of city newspapers, which are controlled by the mayor and use the Moskovskaya Pravda presses, has fought a years-long battle to gain control of the presses.

In 1991, all Communist Party property, including its printing presses, was nationalized. The Moskovskaya Pravda presses print the newspaper by the same name but are a separate entity.

The presses' transfer to the city government is viewed as the first step toward privatization, although they are expected to remain under Luzhkov's control.

The importance of Moskovskaya Pravda has grown since the unfolding of the economic crisis last month. Russia's leading national newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda and Izvestia, have switched from the Kremlin-controlled Pressa publishers to Moskovskaya Pravda, which agreed to give them credit in these cash-strapped times and is said to offer cheaper rates. Moskovskaya Pravda now puts out more than 150 titles.

Oleg Tokachev, first deputy head of the Moscow city government, said at Thursday's anniversary celebration that the city "will do everything so that the publishers and the publications printed here feel the support and the strong hand of the Moscow government."

Ivan Laptev, chairman of the State Press Committee, said the fight for control over the presses was caused by jealousy between the federal and city governments.

In addition to their potential use as political tools, the presses have had profits of about 30 percent, Laptev said, although he acknowledged that a decline was inevitable.

Pavel Gusev, editor of Moskovsky Komsomolets, which is Moskovskaya Pravda's biggest client, said he expects the presses to be privatized.

"Of course, there will be a privatization, new investments, new money and new presses," Gusev said.

In the run-up to the 2000 presidential elections, Luzhkov, a likely candidate, has built up his media empire. Today it includes not only Moscow's traditional newspapers, but the new Rossia and Metro publications, which are part of the private, but city government-controlled Sistema holding.

Lev Gushchin, director of the Metropolis publishing house, which is part of Sistema, was quoted by Kommersant Daily as saying that Moskovskaya Pravda's controlling share is likely "to end up in our hands because the Moscow government does not have another suitable structure.