KIEV, April 25 Ukraine's only television station
to air frequent criticism of the government has all but stopped
broadcasting fresh content after an ownership dispute and a
Alexander Altman, a Ukrainian-born U.S. businessman who has
in the past worked as an adviser to Ukraine's government, told
reporters on Thursday he had taken over the TVi station from
Konstantin Kagalovsky, a former executive of the defunct Russian
oil giant YUKOS.
Kagalovsky for his part said he remained the legal owner of
the station, and would seek to regain control of it. "I have not
sold the channel and never planned to do so," he told reporters
TVi, established in 2008, has been one of the few Ukrainian
media outlets not owned by a supporter of President Viktor
Yanukovich, and has in the past complained about pressure from
Last year, it was raided by tax police in the run-up to a
parliamentary election. It also said last year its partner cable
companies were being forced to drop it from their packages.
Most other large broadcasters in the former Soviet republic
of 46 million are controlled by local businessmen who openly
Altman said he had transferred the ownership of TVi to
himself after receiving "in a certain way" the documents that
gave him power to do so. He also said one of his companies had a
305,000 euro claim against a firm owned by Kagalovsky.
"We have done everything legally," he said at a briefing in
When Altman appointed a new chief executive at the station
this week, most of its staff went on strike.
Since then, the channel has been airing mostly replays of
old programmes, plus some content produced by the new chief
executive, Artem Shevchenko, previously a journalist at TVi.
"This might become a textbook case of
(authorities)destroying opposition with the help of third
parties," said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.
In the latest deal that strengthened Yanukovich's grip on
the media market, a prominent backer, industrialist Dmytro
Firtash, and his chief of staff, Serhiy Lyovochkin, bought the
leading TV station Inter in February.
The previous owner, former deputy prime minister Valery
Khoroshkovsky, had fallen out with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov
and quit the cabinet late last year.
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov;
Editing by Kevin Liffey)