Editor of independent Russian news site replaced with pro-Kremlin figure

n13-iconThe Guardian reports: In what appears to be part of a growing state crackdown on liberal media, the editor of a major independent Russian news website has been replaced by a Kremlin-friendly editor after running an interview with a controversial Ukrainian nationalist.

Lenta.ru announced on its site on Wednesday that Galina Timchenko, who had worked there since its founding in 1999, would immediately be replaced by Alexei Goreslavsky, the former editor of the pro-Kremlin internet publication Vzglyad. Goreslavsky is currently deputy general director for external communications at the Afisha-Rambler-SUP media holding that owns Lenta.ru.

The news came only hours after the state communications watchdog issued a warning to Lenta.ru over a recent interview with Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Ukrainian ultranationalist paramilitary group Right Sector, which played a key role in the protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovych. The Investigative Committee of Russia, the country’s main federal investigator, has charged Yarosh, who recently announced he would run for president in Ukraine’s May elections, with inciting terrorism over a post on a Right Sector social network page that called on Russia’s most-wanted terrorist, Doku Umarov, to “activate his struggle.”

But a letter posted on Lenta.ru and signed by 69 employees and correspondents said Goreslavsky’s appointment amounted to “direct pressure on the Lenta.ru editorial staff” and a violation of censorship laws. Lenta.ru’s editorial policy, which embraced controversial topics and was often critical of the Kremlin, won the site a wide readership, including 13.6 million unique visitors last month, according to Rambler.ru rankings.

“This is absolutely a political situation,” said Lenta.ru’s night editor, Pavel Borisov. “Galina Timchenko was the best editor-in-chief I ever had. I don’t plan to work with Goreslavsky.” The change in editor came with no warning, he added. [Continue reading…]

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