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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NTV Told to Retract Ustinov Report

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In the latest blow to the embattled NTV television station, a court ruled Tuesday that it must retract a report about the prosecutor general's alleged wrongdoing in obtaining a luxury apartment from the government.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov filed the lawsuit against NTV and its general director and anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov, urging them to rescind reports alleging that he hadn't paid taxes for the apartment. The Moscow City Court ruled in Ustinov's favor Tuesday, obliging Kiselyov and NTV to apologize.

Kiselyov, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said NTV might challenge the verdict before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

"Today's decision makes each of us, and, I hope, society in general, ponder the fact … that the prosecutor's office here is above the law and the courts," Kiselyov said. "This is alarming and dangerous."

NTV reports broadcast in July and September implied that Ustinov had received an apartment from Pavel Borodin, the former head of the Kremlin's property department. The reports questioned whether he'd paid the necessary taxes and called his independence into doubt.

Ustinov insisted that he was exempt from paying taxes on the apartment because of a law on the relocation of expert state officials to Moscow from elsewhere. He asked the court to defend his "honor and dignity."

Click here to read our Special Report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

Last month, Ustinov's office closed an investigation into allegations that Borodin had received tens of millions dollars in kickbacks from Swiss construction companies that had renovated the Kremlin, citing a lack of evidence. But Swiss prosecutors have continued the investigation, and issued a warrant for his arrest. Borodin was detained in New York earlier this month and is in jail awaiting an extradition trial.

NTV, the only one of the nation's three main television stations that is independent of the government, has run numerous exposes on Borodin's case and other instances of alleged high-level corruption.

NTV and its parent company, Media-MOST, have been locked in a long battle with prosecutors who accuse their chairman Vladimir Gusinsky of fraud. With Gusinsky under house arrest in Spain pending trial on a Russian extradition request, prosecutors have carried out a series of searches and interrogations at Media-MOST and NTV and recently jailed one of its financial managers. Gusinsky calls the investigation a government attempt to muzzle criticism by Media-MOST news outlets. The Kremlin denies the claim.

President Vladimir Putin had a tense, 3 1/2 hour meeting Monday with 11 NTV journalists, including Kiselyov, who fiercely defended Gusinsky. Putin again dismissed allegations that the Kremlin was behind the probe, and said the prosecutors' only aim was to make everyone observe the law.

After the meeting, NTV journalists said they'd discussed the "apartment conflict" with Putin, who stressed that Ustinov had received the housing from the presidential property department and not from Borodin personally. Nonetheless, the president promised to order his administration's audit department to check into NTV's allegations.

NTV's expose about Ustinov aired shortly after Gusinsky's arrest in June and was seen by some as the television station's counter-offensive against the Prosecutor General's Office.