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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tatarstan TV Chief Resigns Over Chechnya Show

The head of a Tatarstan-owned television station said Monday that he had resigned under pressure from Moscow after anchoring a program in which participants called for peace in Chechnya during the Moscow hostage crisis.

"Moscow put pressure on the Tatarstan authorities, saying a man who sympathizes with Chechen terrorists cannot run a state company," former Tatarstan television chief Irek Murtazin said by telephone from Kazan.

Murtazin, who served as Tatar President Mintimer Shaimiyev's spokesman for two years before being appointed head of Tatarstan television in June, said Shaimiyev accepted his resignation Thursday.

The television program at issue was a talk show hosted by Murtazin on Oct. 24, a day after the Moscow theater was seized. Participants called for an end to the war in Chechnya and criticized Russia's domestic policies.

"I started the show by asking the participants whether the events in Moscow were a terrorist attack or a desperate attempt by Chechen rebels to attract public attention to the war and force Moscow to start peace talks," Murtazin said.

Three days later, he said, a rival Tatarstan-owned channel, Efir, broadcast excerpts from the talk show, which have since surfaced in the Kremlin, the State Duma and the Federation Council and angered top officials.

Murtazin said the excerpts took the meaning of the show out of context.

"They even made an affirmative statement out of my question about whether the Moscow raid was an act of desperation," he said.

He said he feared his talk show might be used as pretext to crack down on the Tatarstan president, so he quit.

Efir CEO and owner Andrei Grigoryev denied that his station had aired excerpts designed to portray the show in a bad light.

"Murtazin's show was biased by itself," he said by telephone from Kazan. "While only one man in a thousand on the street would support Chechen terrorists, about half of Murtazin's guests did so and in a very aggressive manner."

Shaimiyev's press office refused to comment Monday.

Tatarstan television is one of three regional channels that remain in the hands of regional governments. The other 85 regional stations are part of the federally owned VGTRK holding, according to Kommersant. VGTRK denied any involvement in Murtazin's resignation, Kommersant reported Monday.