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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Lesin, Petersburg TV Deserve Each Other




St. Petersburg Television is hands down Russia's worst TV station. It is controlled by St. Petersburg's governor, Vladimir Yakovlev. Every night viewers see Yakovlev in a heroic light; his opponents are treated with contempt.


When Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova - a critic of Yakovlev's - was assassinated, St. Petersburg Television was there to suggest she had been killed by her friends, as a way of boosting the profile of their political movement.


When NATO was bombing Kosovo, St. Petersburg Television blamed the war on, of all people, Alexander Nikitin - because his purported spying had undercut the authority of Russia's nuclear deterrent in Western eyes. (Not even the FSB has ever alleged such extensive espionage on Nikitin's part).


And when Petersburgers stop watching in disgust, the station does things like report breathlessly about a chlorine gas leak that has poisoned 60 - and then inviting terrified viewers to tune in later for "full details." When this happened last year, the key detail turned out to be that the entire report had been faked - as an acknowledged ploy to boost ratings.


Under Yakovlev, the station has rehired Alexander Nevzorov - the journalist famous for in-your-face nationalism, glorification of organized crime, black leather jackets and the soaring Wagner music accompanying his reporting.


It has appointed as news director a former FSB spokesman, Yevgeny Lukin - best known for his novel about the NKVD, "No Blood on the Butchers' Hands," which blames Jews for the 1917 Revolution and the Stalinist mass killings.


The station recently asked viewers: Does Petersburg need an ethnic cleansing campaign? Would you participate in pogroms against Jews? And so on. It has gone on for ages, and the Kremlin has never so much as blinked.


Then this week Nevzorov reported negatively on a concert aimed at bringing youth voters to self-styled liberals like Boris Nemtsov and Sergei Kiriyenko - the only remotely pro-Kremlin politicians left standing. And suddenly Press Minister Mikhail Lesin is indignant - not least, no doubt, because St. Petersburg's Yakovlev is the No. 3 in an anti-Kremlin Duma elections troika with Yury Luzhkov and Yevgeny Primakov.


St. Petersburg Television should have long ago been wrested away from Yakovlev and given to the public - the city's Legislative Assembly is responsible and would run it better. But that's not what's happening; instead, Lesin is handing us nothing less than Soviet-style censorship.