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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Official Quits Over NTV

A Gazprom-Media board member turned in his resignation Thursday in protest of what he said was the unorthodox legal methods used by the company to take over NTV television.

It was unclear what possible impact the resignation might have on the NTV feud, in which NTV supporters are accusing Gazprom-Media of trying to strong-arm its way into taking control of the channel.

"The powers that be, represented by the head of Gazprom-Media [Alfred Kokh], can't be allowed to use any methods necessary to achieve their ends," Anatoly Blinov said Thursday night on NTV's "Hero of the Day" program.

Blinov, who also acted as legal counsel for Gazprom-Media, said he was particularly disturbed by a series of court decisions in Moscow and the central Russian region of Saratov that suggested a local judge had been pressured.

"The initial goal [of Gazprom-Media] was to get back the loan given to the Media-MOST holding," he said. "Now as I'm leaving, the goal is different. And it is being achieved by such methods that it looks to me that the profession of a lawyer soon will become unnecessary."

He did not specify what new goal he was referring to.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.Gazprom-Media officials could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Blinov said the legal dispute between NTV and Gazprom-Media showed only that "protection in court of the rights of a citizen — any citizen — does not exist if the dispute involves government security agencies."

The former Gazprom-Media board member said the last straw for him came when Saratov judge Vitaly Nikolayev issued two contradictory rulings earlier this week. On Sunday, Nikolayev sided with a Media-MOST appeal to ban a shareholders meeting called by Gazprom-Media for Tuesday. Then on Monday he overruled his earlier decision at the request of Gazprom-Media.

"To cancel the court's decision, the court must accept the complaint and appoint the date of the hearing," Blinov was quoted Thursday in the Izvestia newspaper as saying. "But in this case the regulations have not been followed — look at the [Civil Procedural] Code — it says it all."

"It is hard to believe that Kokh managed to write a complaint to the Saratov court, send it there, persuade the judge [to cancel his earlier decision] and bring the new decision back [before the shareholders meeting]," he added. "Maybe he is a very mobile man, but 890 kilometers makes me think otherwise."

Saratov court officials said Nikolayev was too busy to comment Thursday.

Alexander Sveshnikov, editor of the Privolzhskoye Information Agency, said he saw Nikolayev on Wednesday and the judge looked "like he had been hen-pecked half to death at a Communist Party Committee meeting."

"I have known him for seven years," Sveshnikov said by telephone from Saratov. "He is a very active and lively man. But he was obviously pressured and had to succumb because otherwise he would have lost his job. … Saratov is a small city. If he disobeyed, it would have ended his career."