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Moscow TV Station Wins Battle to Stay on Air - 2001-12-30

Russia's last independent television station has won a court victory that could help keep the station on the air. In a case that has raised concerns about press freedom in Russia, a Moscow court ruled against an attempt to shut down TV-6 for financial reasons.

The managers of TV-6 say the ruling by a Moscow arbitration court is a clear victory for independent media in Russia.

The court set aside an earlier lower-court ruling to liquidate the station due to alleged financial problems. The arbitration court ordered the case to be reviewed again.

A pension fund with links to the state brought suit against the station in May, saying it should be closed because it was unprofitable.

The parent company of the pension fund owns a 15 percent stake in TV-6, but critics charged this was just a way for the Kremlin to quiet the last remaining television voice critical of the government.

Most of the staff of TV-6 came to the station in April after another independent station known as NTV was taken over by the government-linked gas company Gazprom.

Both cases called into question President Vladimir Putin's stated commitment to press freedom in Russia.

While Mr. Putin and other top officials say the television disputes are matters for the courts to decide, many Western officials have been openly critical of the Kremlin.

Some foreign leaders said the takeover of NTV was clearly an attempt to silence the opposition, and expressed similar concern about the fate of TV-6.

Last month Secretary of State Colin Powell raised the issue with Russian officials during a visit to Moscow.

On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Alexander Vershbow said it is difficult to understand how a station that was showing signs of economic improvement could be liquidated by one minority shareholder.

TV-6 Director Yevgeny Kiselyov says the company is showing a profit and should continue to grow in the coming year.

Mr. Kiselyov is one of Russia's most prominent and well-known personalities, who rose to prominence at NTV before its takeover.

The main shareholder of TV-6 is Boris Berezovsky, a one-time Kremlin insider and business tycoon who lives in self-imposed exile after he became a bitter opponent of President Putin and his policies.