Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 35

Yeltsin’s decision, announced Thursday, to dismiss the head of Russia’s second television channel, RTR, continues to make news in Moscow. The dismissal of Oleg Poptsov, formerly a close Yeltsin ally, is being seen as further evidence of Yeltsin’s lurch to the left and a blatant attempt to muzzle the media. Vladimir Zhirinovsky is virtually the only politician to have expressed approval. Yeltsin justified his decision by saying RTR’s news coverage was "one-sided," exaggerating social problems and concentrating on the war in Chechnya. Yeltsin said Friday that the new director, Eduard Sagalaev, would concentrate on success stories, sending film crews "to the best plants to show progress in production."

At a protest meeting of RTR staff Friday, staffers signed a protest to Yeltsin and warned Sagalaev not to take office until the reasons for Poptsov’s dismissal were clarified. But Poptsov himself said he would not dispute the decision. He said he was originally appointed by Yeltsin in 1990 and "it would be illogical to appeal against this new decision." Poptsov said Yeltsin had been threatening to dismiss him for over year and only the presence of people such as Sergei Shakhrai and Andrei Kozyrev on the Security Council had delayed the move. Poptsov blamed the influence of unnamed presidential advisers. "Yeltsin is a busy man and does not watch TV, so he forms his opinion of this or that channel on the basis of what he is told by those who are close to him," Popstov said. Meanwhile, RTR staffers pointed out that, although Sagalaev has virtually no experience of news reporting, he is considered a reformer. Sagalaev himself said he agreed to take the job because he believed he could defend the organization and prevent its being turned into "a battering ram" for the president’s election campaign. (2)

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