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Journalists resign after pro-Russia MP buys Ukraine channel

June 15, 2019

A Ukrainian MP with ties to Russia has bought a national Ukrainian news channel, prompting a round of resignations from journalists who fear his ownership will mean coverage influenced by Moscow.

Taras Kozak of the pro-Moscow party “Opposition Platform” already owned two national TV stations before he took over the channel ZIK this week.

Kozak is a close ally of politician Viktor Medvedchuk, a controversial figure in Ukraine because of his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin while Kiev is fighting a Moscow-backed separatist war.

Journalist Roman Nedzelskiy, one of five journalists to resign from the channel along with its CEO, said Medvedchuk now essentially controls ZIK.

“Tomorrow I will be on the air with the last broadcast of the weekly show ‘Details’ and then I will start looking for a job,” he said on Facebook late Friday.

“Medvedchuk is an enemy of my country, a murderer of both the past and the future,” his colleague Vakhtang Kipiani wrote as he announced his resignation.

Mustafa Nayyem, a Ukrainian MP, wrote on social media that the takeover would be a challenge for new President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“It is difficult to say which is worse — a Russian tank on the demarcation line or a broadcast holding… belonging practically to a relative of Vladimir Putin”.

Medvedchuk claims Putin is godfather to one of his daughters.

Ukraine is locked in a five-year conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east of the country that has claimed over 13,000 lives.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.