Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 8

The presidium of the High Arbitration Court today overruled a December 29 decision by the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District that overturned the Moscow Arbitration Court’s decision of last November that ordered the liquidation of the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Corporation (MNVK). MNVK is the parent company of TV-6, Russia’s last remaining major independent television network. Today’s decision, which would appear to make the channel’s liquidation inevitable, was the latest in a series of court decisions sparked by a lawsuit brought last September by one of MNVK’s shareholders, Lukoil-Garant, the pension fund of Lukoil, Russia’s largest oil company. Lukoil-Garant owns 15 percent of the MNVK. Boris Berezovsky, the self-exiled opposition tycoon, owns 75 percent. In its suit, Lukoil-Garant alleged that TV-6 had been mismanaged and was essentially bankrupt. It sought the channel’s liquidation on the basis of a provision of the law “On joint stock companies”, which allows the liquidation of loss-making enterprises. While that provision expired on January 1 of this year, Eduard Renov, a deputy chairman of Moscow’s High Arbitration Court, filed a protest on January 4 challenging the Federal Arbitration Court’s decision to overturn the order liquidating MNVK, arguing that the case should be revisited and a new verdict rendered on the basis of the now-defunct legal provision (NTV.ru, January 11; see the Monitor, January 7).

While today’s decision appears to have sealed TV-6’s fate, the channel’s general director, Yevgeny Kiselev, said in an interview published today that the channel would “continue to work calmly and fight” for its survival, no matter how today’s court hearing turned out. Noting that the liquidation procedure takes six months, Kiselev said that the channel still had “both political and judicial resources, up to and including the Constitutional Court” (Kommersant, January 11). Sources at TV-6 were quoted today as saying that pursuant to today’s court decision, the channel’s shareholders would meet on January 14 to form a liquidation commission. The sources added, however, that though the liquidation process would move forward, this would not stop the channel from both appealing to the Constitutional Court and launching a new case in the Moscow Arbitration Court based on “newly uncovered circumstances” (Polit.ru, January 11).

Meanwhile, U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that the legal proceedings against TV-6, which he called Russia’s only independent national television channel, raised doubts over the independence of media in Russia, over whether laws governing business were being applied impartially and transparently and over whether Russia’s judicial system was free from political pressure (Kommersant, Izvestia.ru, January 11).