Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV Chief Leaves Post Without Explanation

NTV co-founder and general director Oleg Dobrodeyev has left his position at the top of the highly respected and privately owned television station under unclear circumstances.

NTV's official line Thursday was that Dobrodeyev, 40, was "on vacation" for an unspecified period of time. Yevgeny Kiselyov, the anchor of the weekly "Itogi" show and chairman of the board at NTV, was appointed acting general director, NTV spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova said. Vladimir Kulistikov, the head of NTV's flagship news department, became first deputy general director. "The work goes on and television screens continue to shine," Blinova said.

Whatever the reasons behind Dobrodeyev's departure, the news sent shivers through the Moscow media community and was taken as a sign of deep disturbances among television management as a result of political pressures associated with the election season and the Chechnya campaign.

Neither Dobrodeyev nor other key people at NTV was available for comment Thursday.

Izvestia television critic Irina Petrovskaya, who said she spoke with Dobrodeyev by telephone Wednesday, quoted him as saying grimly that he was leaving "to go nowhere" and that was "what life has dealt him."

Petrovskaya said she spoke with NTV owner Vladimir Gusinsky at NTV's sixth anniversary reception Tuesday, where Dobrodeyev's absence set off alarm bells, and Gusinsky told her he and Dobrodeyev had disagreed over editorial policy in the coverage of the Chechnya campaign.

Gusinsky said he insisted that NTV not be a mouthpiece for the Defense Ministry and that it report the tragedy of refugees and civilians as well as the military successes, according to Petrovskaya.

The sense in media circles, however, is that Dobrodeyev, known as a strong advocate of professional and balanced journalism, was the one pushing for more critical coverage.

Unlike during the 1994-96 Chechnya campaign, NTV this time has appeared to lack a coherent policy in its coverage. One day it reported on the fate of civilians in the war zone and another selected only episodes depicting the heroism of Russian soldiers.

In recent months, Dobrodeyev has appeared deeply depressed by the sharp decline in journalism standards.

"All television channels came out of this election campaign with huge losses to their reputations," he said sadly at a press conference after the Dec. 19 State Duma election. "I can only hope that we at NTV managed to minimize them."

During the Duma campaign, NTV supported the anti-Kremlin Fatherland-All Russia party but presented a much fairer news picture than the shamelessly pro-Kremlin ORT and RTR channels.

Manana Aslamazian, director of Internews Russia, a non-profit organization that works with regional television stations, said Thursday that the departure of Dobrodeyev was deeply distressing and "generates a feeling that something very important is collapsing."

"Who will replace such people and how much lower will the [ethical] standards of our journalism drop?" she said.