Liberal Russian radio station closes after pressure over Ukraine

Editor-in-chief of Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy Venediktov makes a statement in Moscow
Alexei Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, makes a statement in Moscow, Russia October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva/File Photo
  • Pressure on media intensifies during Ukraine war
  • Ekho Moskvy had been taken off the air this week
  • Station was one of Russia's last liberal media outlets
  • TV Rain temporarily halts operations

MOSCOW, March 3 (Reuters) - Ekho Moskvy radio station, one of Russia's last remaining liberal media outlets, has been dissolved by its board after coming under pressure over its coverage of the war in Ukraine, its editor said on Thursday.

The station, one of the leading news and current affairs channels in Russia, had been taken off the air on Tuesday though it appeared still to be broadcasting on YouTube on Thursday after the board's decision was announced.

Ekho Moskvy's disappearance from the airwaves dealt a big blow to independent media in Russia after years of intensifying pressure from the authorities.

Another independent outlet, TV Rain, said on Thursday it was temporarily halting its operations.

"The Ekho Moskvy board of directors has decided by a majority of votes to liquidate the radio channel and the website of Ekho Moskvy," Editor-in-Chief Alexei Venediktov said on the messaging app Telegram.

Venediktov told Reuters earlier this week that the station would not abandon the independent editorial line that has been its hallmark for three decades, declaring: "Our editorial policies won't change."

The board's decision came after the prosecutor general's office blocked the Ekho Moskvy and TV Rain websites over their coverage of the conflict. read more

The prosecutor said its move was prompted by their websites' "targeted and systematic posting ... of information calling for extremist activities, violence and deliberately false information about the actions of Russian forces as part of a special operation" in Ukraine.

Russia rejects the term invasion, and says the actions it launched on Feb. 24 are not designed to occupy territory but to destroy Ukraine's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists - a pretext rejected by Ukraine and the West as baseless propaganda.

"We need strength to ... understand how we can work from here," TV Rain's general director, Natalya Sindeeva, said in a statement announcing the suspension of its output. "We really hope that we will return to broadcasting and continue our work.


Ekho Moskvy said on Tuesday that the accusations against it were baseless and offensive, and it would fight them in the courts.

Russian journalists have faced an increasingly difficult environment in recent years, with many being designated by the authorities as "foreign agents", a status that snares them in official paperwork and exposes them to public contempt.

Pressure has mounted since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, with most mainstream media outlets and state-controlled organisations sticking closely to language used by the Kremlin to describe the war.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment directly on the situation at Ekho Moskvy, saying the decision to close had been taken by its board of directors.

"The radio station violated the law. The right of the prosecutor general's office to take appropriate measures was used," he told a briefing.

Asked if Ekho Moskvy could resume operations in the future, Peskov said that was up to the station's owners.

Reporting by Moscow bureau Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Frances Kerry

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