Rare Assault on Putin Hits Russian Evening News

Wall Street Journal

Viewers of the nightly news in the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk were given a rare glimpse recently of a report condemning President Vladimir Putin, when an allegedly disgruntled employee slipped the critical clip between glowing reports about pig farming and the region’s pro-Kremlin governor.

The anti-Putin item appeared on the Eastern Express channel during its evening news report on July 31, after the newsreader introduced a relatively benign story about new medical equipment in local hospitals, according to a portion of the broadcast later uploaded to YouTube.

Instead of that report, the item that appeared was called “The Epoch of Putin”—a polemic that blamed the president for the deaths of slain journalist and anti-Kremlin critic Anna Politkovskaya and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after exposing alleged corruption. It compared corruption levels under Mr. Putin to those in Togo and Uganda.

It also accused Mr. Putin of benefiting from a boost in the polls following a series of terrorist attacks around Russia that started just before his first term as president in 2000.

The report ran for more than two minutes before the channel switched abruptly back to footage of the regional governor, according to the online footage, which spread widely following the broadcast.

Critical broadcast news reports about Russia’s president are almost unheard of in the country, where national television networks are state controlled or have close ties to the Kremlin, and privately owned local stations tend to hold a similar line.

The report was put on the air by a director at the channel who had gotten into a fight with the station’s management, regional news website Znak.com reported. The head of the channel, Valery Shagiev, told the Uralpolit.ru website that it was an “act of hooliganism” and the director would be fired. Calls placed to the station on Wednesday went unanswered.

The critical footage bore the logo of a Russian-language channel in Georgia, PIK TV, which is now defunct and whose representatives couldn’t be located for comment. Descriptions of the program match press reports of a program PIK TV aired in 2011.

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