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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete TV Staff Quits In Protest

Three leading newscasters from St. Petersburg's main government station have quit its news broadcast, saying they can't work with the show's new director - a controversial host who once held a debate over whether the city needed "ethnic cleansing."

Innokenty Ivanov, Svetlana Agapitova and Irina Smolina, all anchors on Petersburg Television's main news show, "Inform-TV," say their reputations would suffer if they worked on a program directed by Sergei Chernyadyev.

"Journalism is a dirty business, but there is the kind of dirt that you can wash off, and then there is the kind of dirt that gets under your skin and stays with you for your entire life," Ivanov said at a news conference last week. "This is the kind of dirt that stays with you for your entire life."

Chernyadyev was appointed director of Inform-TV on Sept. 22. His daily program, "Sobytiye," caused a furor after its July 29 broadcast, in which Chernyadyev encouraged his audience to express themselves for or against "ethnic cleansing" in St. Petersburg. The State Press Committee - the predecessor of the Press Ministry - said the show was a "blatant violation" of the law on mass media and "incited racial hatred."

"We think that expressing one's opinion ... is inappropriate in news programs," Ivanov said.

Agapitova said that "footage appears on the air that I have never seen before. ... Chernyadyev and I have different opinions as to what news programs should look like."

Ivanov and Agapitova said Chernyadyev's appointment most likely was connected to the Dec. 19 gubernatorial elections. "Apparently, his point of view as to what constitutes a news show and what constitutes an election campaign turned out to be preferable to the authorities," Ivanov said.

Last spring, Chernyadyev told his audience that the reason his program aired such favorable reports about St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev was simple: "He bought us."

Ivanov, Agapitova and Smolina all have personal shows on Petersburg Television. They said they will continue putting their shows on the air.

Chernyadyev could not be reached for comment. Yevgeny Lukin, director of the channel's information programs, refused to comment Thursday.