The entire political staff at one of Russia’s most prominent newspapers resigned Monday in protest against its billionaire publisher — who reportedly ordered the firing of two journalists after they wrote an article about President Putin’s close allies.
The mass walkout included a senior editor and 10 reporters, according to Reuters.
It went down at Kommersant — a nationally distributed broadsheet owned by pro-Kremlin businessman Alisher Usmanov — following the forced resignations of Ivan Safronov and Maxim Ivanov, who reported on the Putin allies.
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Specifically, the pair wrote an article on April 17 saying Russian parliament speaker Valentina Matviyenko would possibly be replaced by SVR Foreign Intelligence Service head Sergei Naryshkin. The piece didn’t sit well with Usmanov, according to Safronov and Ivanov, and they were forced to resign as a result.
“Everyone is afraid of drawing too much attention,” Valery Solovei, a professor at Russia’s renowned Moscow State Institute for International Relations, told the Wall Street Journal. “Especially when there are rumors about replacements, reshuffling, people get very nervous.”
Reps for Kommersant, which was acquired by Usmanov in 2006, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.
A spokesman for the billionaire told the Russian news agency Interfax that “the shareholder does not interfere in editorial policy let alone make decisions on dismissing or employing journalists.” They said Usamanov didn’t find out about the firings until he read media reports about them.
Kommersant’s politics editor, Gleb Cherkasov, firmly believes that the publisher was behind the axing.
“The shareholder has the right to take personnel decisions, employees have the right to not agree with them in only one way — by changing their job,” Cherkasov reportedly wrote on Facebook.
Some of the remaining journalists at Kommersant have called on the public to do something.
“Maybe there is someone among our readers who can explain to [Usmanov and his reps] that right now they are destroying one of Russia’s best media,” said Renata Yambaeva, deputy chief editor of the business section.
With Post wires
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