* Lenta.ru editor says replaced after 10 years
* Dozens at news site allege censorship
* Site warned over remarks by Ukrainian far-right leader
By Maria Tsvetkova
MOSCOW, March 12 The longtime editor of a
popular Russian internet news site was dismissed on Wednesday in
what dozens of its staff members alleged was censorship and
direct pressure from the Kremlin.
The removal of Lenta.ru editor-in-chief Galina Timchenko
deepened concerns about what many Russians see as a crackdown on
independent and critical media outlets amid tension over the
Ukrainian crisis during President Vladimir Putin's third term.
It came after a state regulatory agency issued what
Timchenko said was a warning to Lenta over an interview with a
member of a Ukrainian far-right group, Right Sector, which
included a link to remarks by its leader Dmytro Yarosh.
Russian officials depict the ousting of Ukrainian leader
Viktor Yanukovich last month as an illegal, Western-backed power
grab by "extremists". A Russian court issued an arrest warrant
for Yarosh under arrest in absentia on Wednesday on charges of
A statement on the Lenta website cited Timchenko as saying
the owner of Lenta's parent company Afisha-Rambler-SUP,
Alexander Mamut, had decided to replace her with Alexei
Goreslavsky, a deputy director. Mamut, his company and
Goreslavsky could not be reached for comment.
"Well, now it's definitely over," Timchenko, who had been
editor-in-chief since 2004, said later on Facebook. "Thank you,
it's been very interesting."
"We believe that this appointment is direct pressure on the
editor's offices of Lenta.ru," said a letter posted on the site
and signed by more than 80 of its employees.
"The dismissal of a independent editor-in-chief and
appointment of a person who is controlled ... from offices in
the Kremlin is a violation of the media law, which says
censorship is inadmissible," it said.
PRESSURE ON MEDIA
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the accusation of
Kremlin censorship was "completely baseless" and that there was
nothing unusual about the warning from the regulatory agency.
"The space for free journalism in Russia has shrunk
dramatically in the past couple of years," the Lenta.ru
employees' letter said. "Some publications are managed directly
by the Kremlin, others through middlemen and still others by
editors who fear losing their jobs."
Dozhd, a television and internet channel whose even-handed
coverage of anti-government protests in Ukraine stood out in
contrast to Russian state TV reports, was taken off the air by
providers nationwide earlier this year in what its head said was
The chief executive of Ekho Moskvy, a radio station that
often carries criticism of the Kremlin, was replaced last month
in a move its editor-in-chief called a "foul and unjust" sign of
pressure on the station.
In the building that houses Lenta.ru late on Wednesday, some
employees said they planned to quit.
"This firing makes my work at Lenta.ru impossible," special
correspondent Svetlana Reiter said. "I think this is some kind
of an artificial, unnatural limitation of the freedom of speech
and the media that is taking place in Russia".
(Additional reporting by Denis Dyomkin and Nastassia
Astrasheuskaya; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Tom