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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army's Star TV Starts Airing Sunday

Zvezda, or Star, a television channel set up by the Defense Ministry, will go on the air Sunday with patriotic shows aimed at winning Russians' hearts and minds, Zvezda general director Sergei Savushkin said Monday.

"Our audience will be those who consider Russia to be their motherland and don't want to leave this country, whether they are oligarchs, pensioners or miners," Savushkin said.

The last hurdle to Zvezda's launch was cleared Monday when a Defense Ministry commission approved the television transmitter that will be used by the channel, he said.

Initially, the channel will only be available in Moscow and the surrounding Moscow region, but it will go national by early May, he said. Viewers will be able to tune their television sets to receive its programming just as they do with other channels.

Programming will include movies, cartoons and musical concerts, many of them from the archives of the Defense Ministry and Gosfilmofond, a state-owned film archive, Savushkin said.

Although the channel's license requires that 10 percent of Zvezda's airtime be dedicated to news, Savushkin said the channel will be ready to produce its own news broadcasts no earlier than next year. "We do not have enough journalists at the moment to produce news," he said.

Zvezda's staff currently consists of 12 people, he said.

Zvezda has been a pet project of Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov for years. In December, Ivanov accused Russian television channels of contributing to "the moronization of the people," and the Russian media as a whole of being too negative.

"In its programming, Zvezda will be much more positive and socially oriented than any other Russian television channel, even though this is not a very profitable strategy," Savushkin said.

Ivanov recently nudged the television project forward by asking Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov to order the IT and Communications Ministry to issue all the permits the channel needed to be launched, Kommersant reported late last month. Ivanov also asked Fradkov to provide financing for the channel from the federal budget, the newspaper said.

Savushkin, however, said Zvezda will not be bankrolled by the state.

"Zvezda is a commercial project. There is no government money in it," he said. "We borrowed private funds, and we will return them and pay interest."

While he declined to identify any investors, he acknowledged that Zvezda's equipment and broadcast license belong to the Defense Ministry's Central Television and Radio Studio and could have been paid for by the government.

The studio's head, Alexei Lebedev, could not be reached for comment Monday.

The channel still faces a few possible problems. Some national newspapers have reported that the frequency Zvezda will use might interfere with radio frequencies used by the military for communication in and around Moscow.

Zvezda also still needs to register its transmitter and get permission to use its broadcasting equipment, an IT and Communications Ministry spokeswoman said Monday. But she said that the approvals will most probably be granted swiftly.