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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Politicians Rally to Defense of TV6

Politicians from the left and right came to the defense of TV6 television Tuesday, one day after a court ruling threatened to shut it down.

TV6 said it was the next target in a Kremlin campaign to silence alternatives to official propaganda, after state-connected Gazprom took over NTV television in April.

"This is not about TV6, and it's not even about tired words like free speech," TV6 general director Yevgeny Kiselyov, who held the same position at NTV before its takeover, told a news conference.

"It's about the future of the country. You want to live in Paraguay?" he said. "Then let's shut down every single media outlet that presents a point of view other than the official one."

Like in the NTV case, TV6 came under pressure in court in a business dispute against a politically powerful energy giant.

A pension fund linked to LUKoil owns 15 percent of TV6 and has sued to shut it on grounds that it is bankrupt. Monday's court ruling upheld an order that would shut it within six months. TV6 said it would appeal.

The Kremlin has said it has nothing to do with the case, but neither liberals nor Communists in parliament accepted that Tuesday.

"I think this is a continuation of the policy aimed at depriving our society of the ability to receive independent information," Sergei Ivanenko, deputy head of the Yabloko party, was quoted by Interfax as saying.

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said: "The authorities are trying more and more to concentrate the information resources in the hands of a single Voloshin group," referring to Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin.

Press Minister Mikhail Lesin said he regretted the order to shut TV6 "because the media business has already suffered as much turmoil as it can survive." But he said he would do as the law required.

Kiselyov said there was only a slight chance TV6 could be saved, if President Vladimir Putin had a change of heart. Staff would stay at work, but there were no plans to repeat street demonstrations and on-air protests that failed to halt the takeover of NTV.

Foreign leaders had denounced the crackdown on NTV, but Kiselyov said Putin seemed to think he would come in for less criticism after supporting Washington in its fight against terrorism.

"One cannot escape the feeling that the Kremlin believes its support for the counterterrorist operation ... gives it carte blanche for internal affairs within the country," he said.

Putin says he is committed to free speech, but has criticized the owners of the country's few commercial media outlets for exploiting their power and challenging the state.

TV6 is controlled by Boris Berezovsky, who was close to the Kremlin under former President Boris Yeltsin, but fell foul of Putin. Russia wants him on charges linked to the alleged misappropriation of funds from Aeroflot. He lives abroad and calls the charges politically motivated.