Russia’s only opposition cable news channel faces the prospect of closure after the country’s main satellite television provider said it would pull the plug on broadcasts from next week.
TV Rain, one of the few surviving sources of independent news in a landscape dominated by state media, said it was on the brink of bankruptcy. Tricolor TV announced on Monday that it was dumping the channel from February 10.
Several other providers over the past week have also dropped the channel from their television packages. Employees said it was a political move, planned for months and choreographed behind the scenes by Vladimir Putin’s administration.
The pretext for the decision was an online poll conducted by TV Rain last month. It asked whether the Soviets should have surrendered Leningrad during the second world war in order to save hundreds of thousands of lives. The poll appeared on the 70th anniversary of the siege of Leningrad, in which 800,000 people died.
The editors later removed it and issued an apology after a furious and co-ordinated attack by pro-Kremlin deputies. They have called on the general prosecutor’s office to investigate the station for alleged extremism.
Putin’s press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the channel had crossed a moral red line. Soon afterwards, providers started pulling it from the air.
Tricolor’s move will wipe out most of the channel’s audience, reducing the number of Russian households that can access TV Rain from 17.4 million to 500,000.
TV Rain’s editor-in-chief, Mikhail Zygar, said: “A serious war is being waged against us.”