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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VGTRK Chief Rushed To NTV

The NTV drama that unfolded in the early hours of Saturday not only affected NTV employees but spilled over to include Oleg Dobrodeyev, an NTV co-founder who quit the channel in January 2000 and has since headed the state-owned television and radio conglomerate VGTRK.

Dobrodeyev rushed to NTV's offices early Saturday in an attempt to moderate a dispute between a group of NTV journalists and the freshly arrived new management. He then abruptly announced that he had resigned from VGTRK, or the All-Russian State Television and Radio Co.

Dobrodeyev said he "had no choice but to come to NTV to try to alleviate the horrible, difficult situation that has emerged at the channel," Interfax reported.

"I was perfectly aware that I could not do this as the head of the state television and radio corporation," he was quoted by Interfax as saying.

He also said that he felt "profound guilt" before President Vladimir Putin and his colleagues at VGTRK for "acting spontaneously and impulsively."

Dobrodeyev's emotionally charged visit to see the ruins of the channel he helped build — and the circumstances around his resignation from NTV that were revealed for the first time late last week in an open letter to ousted NTV general director Yevgeny Kiselyov — offer a glimpse into the close-knit political and personal drama surrounding the conflict over NTV.

It was not clear Sunday whether Dobrodeyev — one of the country's most respected television executives — would indeed resign from VGTRK or whether Putin would accept any resignation.

Dobrodeyev could not be reached for comment Sunday. An official who answered the telephone at Dobrodeyev's office said that no letter of resignation has been submitted and that it is unlikely that one will be written. "Everything remains as it was," said the official who asked not to be identified.

If Dobrodeyev was to pay the price for his emotional visit to NTV by handing in his resignation, he would throw into doubt the broad reforms that he has been carrying out at state-owned RTR television and its affiliates. After his appointment to VGTRK in January 2000, Dobrodeyev brought in a handful of NTV journalists who helped markedly improve RTR's news. That and other changes have boosted RTR's ratings past NTV's.

Dobrodeyev is also thought to be a member of Putin's inner team of advisers and was at one time rumored to be a candidate to head the presidential administration.

"If there was the slightest chance to solve this [NTV] problem in a different way, I would have certainly solved it," Dobrodeyev told reporters Saturday.

"But I am a hostage to my word," he added in an apparent reference to an agreement with Putin.

NTV journalist and Dobrodeyev's erstwhile friend and protege Vladimir Kara-Murza stopped his former boss in an NTV hall at 5:30 a.m. Saturday and asked him what the chairman of VGTRK was doing there, according to footage shown Saturday on THT television, a sister company of NTV where NTV reporters angered over the Gazprom takeover have resumed their broadcasts.

"I am not VGTRK chairman anymore," Dobrodeyev said.

Responding to further questions from Kara-Murza, Dobrodeyev said with apparent sadness: "Volodya, freedom of speech is not just you, and you should have a greater degree of freedom to understand this."

Kara-Murza said in an interview Saturday night he believed that Dobrodeyev had gone to NTV's offices to split the loyalty of the opposing journalists.

"Dobrodeyev left [VGTRK] for one night, last night, just to pull us apart," he said. "Putin didn't sign his resignation, so it turns out that he stayed at RTR and scattered us."

It was not clear what effect if any Dobrodeyev's visit had on the development of the drama surrounding NTV.

Dobrodeyev was largely credited with building the station's news service to a high standard. NTV employees continued to look up to him even after he quit without explanation as NTV president in January 2000.

In an open letter to Kiselyov published in the Izvestia newspaper last week, Dobrodeyev accused the former general director of hypocrisy by decrying the takeover of the channel as a blow to free press.

He wrote that NTV has always been affiliated with not only co-founder Vladimir Gusinsky but also with the Kremlin, from which it won broadcasting licenses with the help of then-presidential property manager Pavel Borodin and President Boris Yeltsin's tennis coach Shamil Tarpishchev.

Dobrodeyev said that he represented NTV in closed-door Kremlin meetings, and that NTV journalists advised Yeltsin on public relations during and immediately after his 1996 re-election campaign and even wrote his radio addresses in 1997.

"The channel's moral capital that was earned … during the first Chechnya campaign was actively transformed, by participating in the Kremlin's actions, into real capital, including endless loans from state-controlled Gazprom," Dobrodeyev wrote.

Dobrodeyev said that Gusinsky, his deputy Igor Malashenko and Kiselyov began to push him out of NTV in 1999 when he opposed their decision to change the channel's originally neutral coverage of the second Chechnya war for a sharply critical position. He said the decision was made in the hope that another deal could be struck with the Kremlin — a softer line on Chechnya in exchange for an extension on millions of dollars in loans.

NTV's protests were "the burial of television news journalism," Dobrodeyev wrote.

He accused Kiselyov of pushing the editorial team to protest and perhaps end up "in ruins" while he could flee the country and live a life of luxury.