MOSCOW — A Russian oligarch has fired the senior management at a leading publisher after its weekly news magazine published expletive-ridden materials insulting Vladimir Putin, reports said on Tuesday.
Alisher Usmanov, the owner of the Kommersant publishing house, told the online newspaper Gazeta.ru that the pictures with anti-Putin slogans published in the Kommersant Vlast weekly magazine "bordered on petty hooliganism".
Kommersant, one of Russia's most respected publishers, publishes the liberally-inclined daily newspaper of the same name, the weekly magazine Kommersant Vlast and also owns the popular Kommersant-FM radio.
Gazeta.ru said the general director of the publisher's holding company Andrei Galiyev had been fired as had the editor-in-chief of Kommersant Vlast, Maxim Kovalsky.
Meanwhile, the general director of the Kommersant publishing house Demyan Kudryavtsev had sent a letter of resignation, it added.
The controversy was sparked by this week's issue of Kommersant Vlast devoted to the parliamentary elections earlier this month, which the opposition insists were rigged to boost Putin's party and sparked mass protests.
The front cover says bluntly: "How the elections were falsified."
The issue contained a report on expatriates voting in Britain, which showed a photograph taken by its correspondent of a spoiled ballot paper with swear words written in red ink directed at Putin.
It also printed another photograph from London of a spray-painted image of Putin with the slogan in English "Public Enemy No. 1" and "Khutin Pui", a play on his name.
The Interfax news agency quoted a source familiar with the situation as saying the main reason for the sackings was the picture of the spoiled ballot paper "with an indecent, uncensored inscription".
Usmanov, a major shareholder in London's Arsenal Football Club, was quoted as saying by Gazeta.ru that he had never interfered in the journalistic activities of his publications but considered this to be a violation of ethics.
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