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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Resignations, Bitter Reproaches at NTV

One of NTV's founders on Monday accused the television station of using its Chechnya coverage as a bargaining chip in relations with the Kremlin, as some NTV journalists broke ranks and announced their resignations amid a continuing volley of acrimonious open letters from current and former staff.

Erstwhile NTV executive Oleg Dobrodeyev, now chair of the state radio and television company VGTRK, published a scathing message to Yevgeny Kiselyov, who was replaced as NTV's general director at a contested shareholders meeting last week.

In his open letter on the front page of Monday's Izvestia, Dobrodeyev condemned Kiselyov for his hypocrisy, saying NTV had compromised its principles in previous deals with the Kremlin and was now crying foul because another such attempt had failed.

Dobrodeyev reminded Kiselyov that NTV had gotten its original license with direct help from the Kremlin and served for several years as the Kremlin's mouthpiece.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.But his most damning criticism concerned NTV's coverage of the current war in Chechnya — the point of contention that led to Dobrodeyev's resignation last year.

Dobrodeyev accused Kiselyov and NTV boss Vladimir Gusinsky of planning to offer the Kremlin softer coverage of the war in exchange for softer terms for millions of dollars of debt owed by Gusinsky's media empire to state-controlled enterprises such as Gazprom.

Dobrodeyev echoed earlier criticism that Kiselyov is silencing his subordinates and wrote that Kiselyov is subjecting them to dangers he himself will be able to avoid: "One person will be whisked away on his boss's jet, his boss's yacht," Dobrodeyev wrote, while "others will remain at the scene of the fire, betrayed. … We both know perfectly well who will end up where."

Kiselyov did not issue a public response Monday.

But the front page of Monday's Kommersant featured an open letter from Kiselyov to Leonid Parfyonov, the producer of several popular NTV documentary series, who had published a caustic letter to Kiselyov on Saturday.

Kiselyov accused Parfyonov of angling for a spot on the new NTV board to be appointed by Gazprom-Media, the channel's shareholder and creditor. He blasted Parfyonov for "arrogant individualism" and "narcissism akin to an advanced [stage of] consumption."

Kiselyov attacked Parfyonov for being a "poseur and coward." The letter ended, "You always fought for style. But what you have done is banal betrayal at a difficult moment — and that is a crime against style."

Parfyonov's letter was one of the first signs of discord within NTV's editorial team.

In it, he accused Kiselyov of manipulating staff and making decisions for them, treating people like "cannon fodder" or "hostages."

"There is already no freedom and no speech [at NTV]. I can no longer stand to listen to your preaching in the reporters' room — those 10 minutes of hatred — but I can't stop attending them until I've resigned," Parfyonov wrote. The letter ended with a promise to submit an official resignation.

On Monday, NTV's popular satirist Viktor Shenderovich posted his own open letter on NTV's web site, criticizing Parfyonov's betrayal but, more importantly, responding to an open letter by Gazprom-Media head Alfred Kokh, who praised Parfyonov's "tremendous taste and sense of style."

"We have bad taste, Mr. Kokh," the response said, "but we are not morons. And we know what will happen if ('when') you come to power at NTV."

Shenderovich implied that Kokh would do the Kremlin's bidding at NTV by writing the government "has you by the balls, Mr. Kokh," ostensibly referring to unresolved corruption allegations from several years ago.

With tension mounting, several journalists announced they were leaving the channel Monday.

Political reporter Alexei Pivovarov and news anchor Natalya Zabuzova resigned, NTV spokeswoman Tatyana Blinova said in a telephone interview. Mikhail Frolov, host of the "Kriminal" program, also announced Monday his show would no longer air on NTV.

"We don't want to leave," Frolov said in a statement on NTV's web site. "But we can not find a common language with the people now setting policy for the channel."

Tatyana Mitkova, a well-known news anchor, submitted her resignation Saturday.