Century old Russian paper relaunches amid scandal
One of Russia's oldest newspapers Izvestia, which has been both a Soviet mouthpiece and liberal daily in a century-old history, relaunched Tuesday in a controversial project that has seen more than half its staff fired.
The new Izvestia featured narrower pages and smaller font and was conspicuously thinner than the former version. A new website is expected to go live later Tuesday.
Izvestia, which became known for its liberal reporting in the 1990s but in last years has toed an unashamedly Kremlin line, has been owned since 2008 by Russia's National Media Group (NMG).
The group is a vast media conglomerate controlled by Yury Kovalchuk, who is believed to be a close ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Earlier this year the company appointed Avram Gabrelyanov, a mastermind behind several Russia's best known muck-raking tabloids, to manage its print and media publications.
A few months later NMG said it was transferring Izvestia's publishing activities to Gabrelyanov and moving them to a new building, taking only a minority of the old staff on board.
The old editorial team published an open letter Sunday accusing new management of leaving them in the dark about their future and compensation for the layoff.
The spokesman for the old staff, deputy editor Sergei Mostovshikov, called the shuffle a move before March 2012 presdential elections that will rebrand the paper into a nationalist and pro-Putin mouthpiece.
"I think they have a big project and big plans for the building and the elections," he said in an interview to Openspace.ru online journal.
But new editor in chief Alexander Malyutin argued the paper's staff, numbering over 100 people, was simply not efficient.
The paper has existed since 1917 and was one of best-known national broadsheet brands in the Soviet-era, publishing general news and commentary. Until Sunday it occupied an office on one of Moscow's central squares.
© 2011 AFP