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Metals Oligarch Buys Up Daily Newspaper

Published: September 5, 2006 (Issue # 1201)


MOSCOW Kommersants editor said Sunday that the sale of his newspaper to metals magnate Alisher Usmanov had been completed but the new owner had yet to send any representatives to the newspapers offices.

The sale nevertheless threatens to alter irrevocably the countrys media landscape by putting the countrys last independent-minded nationally-owned daily into the hands of a billionaire who is thought to be close to First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and has a reputation of being a tough-talking negotiator.

It also highlights a broader Kremlin-backed strategy of national media buyouts by loyal businessmen and the state-owned Gazprom behemoth. After the takeovers, the coverage of the once independent-minded news organizations has become comparatively bland and toothless.

We thought that after they took over all national television channels, the authorities would leave newspapers which have a far more limited reach than television in peace. We were mistaken, said Oleg Panfilov, head of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations.

National newspapers that criticized the authorities including Izvestia, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, Gazeta and Moskovskiye Novosti have been snapped up by Gazprom or businessmen loyal to the Kremlin in recent years and adopted a more pro-Kremlin line in their editorial policy.

I am afraid the same fate awaits Kommersant, Panfilov said.

Some Kommersant journalists have expressed the same concern, but the newspapers editor, Vyacheslav Borodulin, suggested it was too early to tell.

Borodulin said Sunday that the acquisition of the Kommersant publishing house, which includes the daily business newspaper, had been completed, but several formalities might remain.

He also said that Usmanovs representatives had not visited the editorial offices so far, contradicting a Kommersant reporter who said Thursday that Usmanovs business team was visiting the offices.

Borodulin said no journalists had resigned or were expected to resign over the sale. As for the imminent departure of deputy editor Alexander Shadrin, Borodulin said that Shadrin first announced his intention to leave three months ago and that the decision was unrelated to Kommersants ownership.

While Borodulins remarks appeared to be an attempt to soothe fears about what might happen next at his newspaper, former Kommersant owner Boris Berezovsky seems to have changed his mind about the prudence of the sale to Usmanov.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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