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Court ban on NTV meeting

Gusinsky
Gusinsky has been battling to prevent a takeover of NTV  

MOSCOW, Russia -- A Moscow court has banned Russia's only independent television channel from holding a shareholders' meeting.

NTV received the court order less than 24 hours before the April 3 meeting was due to take place, company spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky said on Monday.

The channel, which was founded by media-mogul Vladimir Gusinsky, has long been a critic of Vladimir Putin's leadership.

Gusinsky is under arrest in Spain where he is fighting extradition to Russia on fraud charges linked to his Media-Most empire.

Tuesday's meeting was called by state-dominated gas monopoly Gazprom, which has 46 percent of the station's shares.

Gazprom said it had called the meeting -- at which it wants to dump its Gusinsky-appointed managers -- because it had gained a defacto majority of NTV's shares.

But Aelita Yefimova, spokeswoman for Gazprom's media wing, Gazprom-Media, said the company was unaware of the court ruling and planned to go ahead with the shareholders' meeting.

"We did not ask the court for news on this appeal because we had no reason to do so. We have received absolutely no official document" banning the shareholders' meeting, she said.

The court ban gives Gusinsky an opportunity to keep his NTV television channel free of Kremlin control.

Gusinsky claims the charges against him are an attempt to silence NTV.

NTV has angered Putin with its sometimes critical reports on the 18-month clampdown in Chechnya, and has attacked the former KGB spy for his alleged intolerance of criticism.

Putin is also said to be irritated by his portrayal in NTV's hit satirical show "Kukly" (Puppets).

An estimated 10,000 people attended a rally in central Moscow at the weekend to defend NTV against what is widely perceived as an official attack.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Russians protest for media freedom
March 31, 2001
Gusinsky freed to await hearing
March 27, 2001
Gusinsky ordered to stay in prison
March 23, 2001
Raids on Gusinsky media empire
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TV boss to fight extradition to Russia
January 31, 2001

RELATED SITES:
MediaMost
NTV
Russian Government
GAZPROM

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