Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 69

The battle of words between NTV and Gazprom-Media has been joined by supporters of both sides. The weekend saw demonstrations in support of the embattled television channel in a number of cities. On April 7, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 NTV supporters gathered in front of the Moscow’s Ostankino television center, where all three of Russia’s major networks have their studios. Yesterday, 5,000 to 6,000 people demonstrated in support of NTV in St. Petersburg. Demonstrations were also held in a number of other cities, including Murmansk, Novgorod, Chelyabinsk and Ulyanovsk. Internationally, the governments of Germany and the United States have expressed their concern over threats to NTV’s independence, as has the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and press freedom advocacy groups like the Committee to Protect Journalists (, Moscow Times, April 9; Obshchaya Gazeta, April 7). On the other side, the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP), which groups together a number of the country’s leading oligarchs, released a statement today supporting what it called Gazprom’s efforts to defend its “property rights” and condemning the NTV journalists for ostensibly trying to abridge those rights. Likewise, a leading member of the RSPP, United Energy Systems chief Anatoly Chubais, told the state’s RIA news agency that Gazprom was acting “properly” in asserting its property rights, and could have acted much more “harshly.” Chubais praised his long-time associate Alfred Kokh for the way he has handled the issue (, April 7). President Vladimir Putin finally weighed in on the NTV controversy. Following a meeting with him, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev quoted Putin as urging the NTV journalists to appeal to the “higher court”–an apparent reference to the Supreme Court–to resolve the conflict (Russian agencies, April 9).