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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nothing Will Be Left After The Battle

The tax inspectorate of the central district of Moscow has filed a suit calling for the liquidation of NTV in connection with its bankruptcy. Now, before I go further, I want to point out what it clearly says at the end of this column: My television program is broadcast on NTV.

There are an estimated 80,000 collective farms in Russia that have no money to purchase new equipment or even to pay wages. However, according to the tax authorities, the only bankrupt company in Russia is NTV.

This suit is not the final blow to NTV. Merely one more volley in a long war that has been waged against the private television channel. It is the traditional tactic of Russian invaders: attack from all sides at once and keep the enemy in a constant state of tension. "I don’t want him to get any sleep," one of our oligarchs once told me about the owner of a factory that he was trying to take over. "Then he’ll make a mistake."

Of course, it would be wrong to reduce the conflict between NTV and the authorities down to just a battle over freedom of speech. It is really an attempt by government bureaucrats to take over a promising sector of the national television market.

The apparatus of the state is merely being used as a cudgel in this effort. NTV’s opposition stance is merely a pretext. To my mind, when the state settles scores with the opposition, it is pretty vile; but when the settling of scores is just a pretext for some bureaucrats to pocket the opposition’s property, that is far more contemptible.

It is unlikely that the court will settle this case in favor of the tax inspectorate. They are clearly counting on something else: The suit is designed to chase away any of the foreign investors to whom, according to the agreement reached with Gazprom, a blocking packet of NTV shares was to be sold. If the move succeeds, that packet will be left to whichever buyer can be found and, no doubt, the price will be better, too.

This is one more interesting peculiarity about a Russian-style hostile takeover. In a Western hostile takeover, the buyers have to pay a higher price than a buyer would pay in an amicable sale. In Russia, however, a hostile takeover is when the buyer pays literally kopeks for a company. And he pays this money not to the company’s owner, but some thug who throws the former owner out a window.

Unfortunately, high-tech enterprises tend to disappear in the process of being divvied up. Therefore, I am sure that NTV will soon disappear.

After the company is swallowed up, all that will remain is the frequency that it broadcasts on, which can be sold off to another company, and a certain vacant spot in the country’s advertising market, which can be filled by other companies.

What is going on now is like a gunfight in a burning airplane that is rapidly running out of fuel. And we shouldn’t blame the oligarchs for this. They are good people who, when they have some time free from their infighting, are eager to speculate profoundly on the fate of this great country.

But there is no denying that the laws of economics have doomed Russia to failure. Unless another, better paradigm can be proposed to enable the country to survive. So far, President Vladimir Putin has not come up with such a paradigm.

Yulia Latynina is creator and host of "The Ruble Zone" on NTV television.