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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coffee Stains and Confusion in TV War

On one side of a dusty avenue, an American financier presided over the frenzy of a television newsroom for the first time in his life as the new director of NTV.

On the other side, anchors and producers who quit NTV at dawn put out renegade newscasts from the cramped studios of an allied station. Scripts were scrawled on scrap paper, and broadcasts were planned by shouting down corridors thronged with politicians and advocates of media freedom.

Everyone was in need of sleep, many clutching tiny plastic cups of instant coffee. No amount of makeup could hide the stubble on anchor Andrei Norkin's chin when he went on the air for the exiles' chaotic first broadcast.

Overnight Saturday, Gazprom sent security guards to install Boris Jordan as NTV's director. A few dozen employees resigned, ending a 10-day standoff to prevent the takeover.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

Jordan, a 34-year-old American of Russian descent, paced NTV's halls in a crisp suit and held meetings in his new office in the dingy, Soviet-era Ostankino broadcast center. He told journalists he was there to clean up the debt-saddled network's finances — not to interfere with its coverage.

The journalists across the street ignored him. On air and in private, they accused Jordan and Gazprom of acting on orders from the Kremlin.

A few took with them bulky portraits of themselves, which they tore off NTV's walls. Some left defiant, others despondent. They denounced colleagues who stayed at NTV, and the feeling was mutual.

People who worked side by side Friday traded scathing insults Saturday, each accusing the other of destroying the vigorous, collegial NTV that was.

Many camera operators, carrying costly cameras, went over to the THT station, which is owned by the Media-MOST holding company that founded NTV. Some technical personnel did the same.

On Saturday night, hundreds of NTV employees crammed into a THT studio for a meeting led by ousted NTV general director Yevgeny Kiselyov on what steps to take next.

Jordan appeared to have the upper hand, since he had security guards and most NTV property under his legal and physical control. Journalists on his side described Saturday's developments, with relief, as the end of the protracted struggle.

But the other side enjoyed vocal support and plenty of angry energy. "We're in fighting form," said ousted anchor Marianna Maximovskaya.

State Duma members and human rights advocates came to the THT studios to offer backing. Dozens of Muscovites appeared at the NTV gates to protest the takeover.

A pregnant passer-by expressed surprise at the protest. When she turned on NTV in the morning, she said, all she saw was a movie about a talking orangutan.