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TV6- off the air!

The Russian government abruptly pulled the plug on Tuesday

The Russian government abruptly pulled the plug on Tuesdayon the country's only nationwide television station outside the Kremlin's control, acting on a court order. The TV6 station, which fought a loosing legal battle to continue broadcasting against a minority shareholder it accused of doing the Kremlin's bidding, went off the air overnight and a sports channel replaced it on its usual frequency. "It looks like some kind of a television coup," TV6 General Director Yelgeny Kiselyov told Ekho Moskvy radio. "The authorities today showed that their single goal is to gag us." Kiselyov said power had been cut off to TV6 studios and internet and telephone lines were also not working. The move, following a visit by court bailiffs to the Media Ministry on Monday where they sought to enforce a court ruling to shut the station down, seemed to have come as a surprise for TV6, which had counted on a 10-day grace period reserved for appeals. The fate of TV6 was sealed when a pension fund holding a minority stake and linked to Russia's biggest oil producer LUKOIL won a court case to close the station because of irregularities with its charter capital. The row, though formally commercial, has re-ignited concern over the Kremlin's tolerance of independent media in Russia. Last year, state-dominated gas monopoly Gazprom took over the country's biggest independent television broadcaster NTV. President Vladimir Putin has said the state played no role in TV6's troubles and would not interfere with court decisions.