TV-6, Russia’s last remaining major private national television channel, is once again facing the threat of liquidation. On January 4, Eduard Renov, a deputy chairman of Moscow’s Higher Arbitration Court, notified the channel’s management that he was protesting the December 29 decision by the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District to overturn a verdict reached in November by the Moscow Arbitration Court ordering the liquidation of TV-6’s parent company, the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK). The November decision came in response to a suit brought by one of MNVK’s shareholders, Lukoil-Garant, the pension fund of Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil company. In its suit, Lukoil-Garant alleged that TV-6 had been mismanaged and was essentially bankrupt.
Renov’s demarche declares that the December 29 decision had no legal basis and that the earlier decision ordering the liquidation of MNVK was correct. This places TV-6 under threat once again because the Federal Arbitration Court, in delivering its December 29 decision overturning TV-6’s liquidation, also ordered that the case be handed back to the Moscow Arbitration Court for further consideration. The Moscow Arbitration Court is set to revisit the case on January 11. The case is further complicated by the fact that the original basis for Lukoil-Garant’s case against TV-6–a provision of the law “On joint stock companies” permitting the liquidation of loss-making enterprises–expired on January 1. TV-6’s press secretary, Tat’yana Blinova, noted late last week that Renov has asked the Moscow Arbitration Court, in re-examining the case, to act as if the provision permitting the liquidation of loss-making enterprises were still in effect. Blinova said that if the Moscow Arbitration Court rules against MNVK this time, TV-6’s shareholders, who are scheduled to meet on January 14, will have to take a decision to liquidate the channel.
TV-6’s management team has alleged that Lukoil’s lawsuit is part of a politically motivated campaign by the Kremlin against the channel and its majority shareholder, Boris Berezovsky, the one-time Kremlin insider who broke with President Vladimir Putin in late 2000 and went into self-imposed exile. Berezovsky owns 75 percent of MNVK, while Lukoil-Garant owns 15 percent of the company. Reacting to Eduard Renov’s January 4 demarche, TV-6’s general director, Yevgeny Kiselev, charged that it was purely political, noting that the Higher Arbitration Court deputy chairman is also a member of the board of directors of Rosneft, the state-owned oil company that is a business partner of Lukoil, which itself is partly state-owned (Polit.ru, January 5; NTV.ru, January 4). (Eduard Nikolaevich Renov is indeed listed as a board member on Rosneft’s website, though he is identified there as a first deputy minister of justice of the Russian Federation.)
Following the December 29 court decision overturning the liquidation of TV-6’s parent company, staff members and supporters of the channel indicated that while they saw the verdict as a victory and a vindication–particularly because the legal basis for Lukoil’s suit went out when the new year came in–they also believed that there would be further attempts to shut the channel down. Just before New Year’s, an anonymous Lukoil-Garant representative was quoted as saying that even if the company’s suit were overturned, there exists “a mass of other laws” that could provide the basis for TV-6’s liquidation (see the Monitor, January 2).
ANTITERRORISM TRIALS IN AZERBAIJAN.