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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kiselyov Urged to Solve MN Spat

The supervisory board of the liberal Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper on Monday called on its editor, Yevgeny Kiselyov, to reinstate seven journalists fired in an acrimonious labor dispute and urged both sides to reach a compromise.

If the dispute between Kiselyov and his staff is not resolved, the country could lose a paper that was the symbol of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost, members of the supervisory board said.

"We urge Kiselyov ... to stop the creeping process of replacing staff on the newspaper," said Yevgeny Yasin, rector of the Higher School of Economics and a member of the supervisory board, Interfax reported Monday.

Yasin told Interfax that jailed former Yukos CEO and MN co-owner Mikhail Khodorkovsky had charged the supervisory board with "playing a decisive role in the resolution of contentious issues."

The conflict between Kiselyov and his team erupted March 11 after he decided not to renew contracts for seven leading journalists, including two deputy editors. In response, 20 of the 32 staff journalists signed a letter urging Kiselyov to step down.

The letter accused Kiselyov of "tyranny and incompetence," and of "authorizing the ... publishing of political and economic promotional materials under the guise of editorials." They also criticized him for not cutting short a vacation during the Beslan hostage crisis.

But Kiselyov hit back at the journalists on Ekho Moskvy radio, saying that he had been forced to decide whether "to leave things as they were or inject new blood" at the paper.

One of the fired journalists, first deputy editor Lyudmila Telen, said by telephone Tuesday that the supervisory board's intervention would likely help the paper find a way out of the dispute.

"The board has such authoritative people on it that Kiselyov is likely to listen to them," she said.

But Kiselyov, reached on his cellphone Tuesday, said he was not ready to comment on whether he would reinstate the journalists, since "the supervisory board is due to meet again next week."

One of the country's best-known television journalists, Kiselyov was hired as MN editor in September 2003, when a subsidiary of Yukos' majority owner, Menatep, bought the paper.

The supervisory board's call came after a statement last week by Khodorkovsky that also called on both sides to reach a compromise. Speaking through a lawyer, Khodorkovsky said he was "upset" that people he "respected could not reach an agreement."

Citing an unidentified source, Komsomolskaya Pravda said last week that the intrigue at MN had been fomented by exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who was irritated by the paper's passive stance and wanted it to be more critical of the Kremlin.

Telen agreed with the paper's theory, saying that in the past "many people linked to Berezovsky" had shown up in the newsroom. "They want to use the paper for their political aims so it is more aggressive in opposing the Kremlin's policies," she said.

But Kiselyov dismissed the idea as "100 percent irresponsible nonsense," and "groundless speculation."

Last Friday, the fired journalists issued an alternative paper, dubbed Moskovkiye Novosti bez Kiselyova, and distributed it outside the newspaper's office on Pushkin Square.