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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zubkov Makes Cabinet Meetings Off-Limits to Press

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov pulled the plug on televised Cabinet meetings Thursday, apparently because of his harsh treatment of ministers.

Reporters previously could watch the weekly session via closed-circuit television. But on Thursday, the live broadcast to the government's pressroom was cut shortly after Zubkov congratulated ministers on the Russian football team's victory over England the night before.

"Only the prime minister's opening remarks will be broadcast for the press and then, in accordance with an order by Viktor Zubkov, Cabinet members will inform journalists about the main topics and decisions that were adopted after the meetings," government spokesman Alexander Zharov said, Interfax reported. He said the ministers had not felt comfortable working under the watchful eyes of reporters, especially when the discussion involved sensitive and sometimes classified information. He also said other countries do not broadcast Cabinet meetings live.

But commentators said the decision appeared aimed at protecting the reputations of both Zubkov and the ministers. Zubkov has brought the rough habits and language from his days as a collective farm director to the Cabinet, said Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Information, a think tank. "We have seen on TV how rudely he began treating ministers at his first government meetings and how female members of the government reacted," he said. "I believe that as Zubkov deals with the current spike of inflation and food prices, his language at the meetings will get even more rude."

A government spokeswoman could not say whether the measure was temporary. "I don't understand your interest in the topic," she said. "We did not invent anything new but just returned to an old practice." Reporters were allowed into Cabinet meetings after Zubkov's predecessor, Mikhail Fradkov, assumed office in 2004. During the four years before that, under Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, they were only allowed to hear the opening remarks and then had to wait for a news conference afterward to learn what was discussed.