Business Newspaper Vedomosti’s Editor-In-Chief Bans Putin Criticism

Russia’s leading business newspaper Vedomosti is at the center of another censorship-related controversy, with the new chief editor now banning employees from criticizing President Vladimir Putin’s proposed constitutional changes, The Moscow Times reports.

Andrei Shmarov, who was named acting editor-in-chief by Vedomosti’s new owners in March, made news earlier this month for deleting a column critical of the head of state-controlled oil giant Rosneft, Igor Sechin.

Vedomosti’s media editor said Wednesday that Shmarov has now threatened to fire staffers if they write articles critical of the constitutional amendments that could allow Putin to remain president until 2036, Vedomosti’s media editor Kseniya Boletskaya wrote on Facebook.

The new chief editor also banned articles that cite surveys from Russia’s last remaining independent polling agency, the LevadaCenter, Boletskaya wrote, claiming that the orders came from the Kremlin.

“Shmarov says that the presidential administration doesn’t want to see Levada surveys in Vedomosti and if the paper wants to survive, it should listen to the presidential administration,” Boletskaya said.

Vedomosti, a long-time partner of the LevadaCenter, often gets first access to the pollster’s latest studies.

“He’s already tried to talk Vedomosti journalists out of using Levada,” she wrote. “Now it’s a direct ban. And strictly verbal.”

Shmarov previously founded the Kremlin-linked Expert magazine and served as CEO of the Snob news website and editor-in-chief of the Project 42 educational portal. His hiring sparked backlash within Vedomosti’s ranks, and several of its editors have called on the owners to appoint a different chief editor.

Derk Sauer, Vedomosti’s founder and the publisher of The Moscow Times, has expressed concern about the independent paper’s sale to publisher Konstantin Zyatkov and businessman Alexei Golubovich, which led to Shmarov’s hiring.