Russia state media red-faced over Moscow mayor mistake
Russia's tightly-controlled state media Friday admitted to a "technical mistake" after hurriedly retracting an early morning report that President Dmitry Medvedev had chosen a new mayor of Moscow.
Muscovites have for almost three weeks been eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new mayor after Medvedev dramatically sacked longtime Moscow strongman Yury Luzhkov late last month.
The website of state rolling news channel Rossiya 24 announced in the early morning that Medvedev had put forward one of the most fancied candidates, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin.
Given such announcements are often made in the early hours in Russia and Sobyanin is one of the favourites for the post, the news did not initially raise eyebrows.
The announcement was picked up by the Interfax news agency and Rossiya 24's radio operation before they rapidly issued retractions when no Kremlin confirmation appeared.
"The information appeared due to a technical mistake by a moderator," the state news agency RIA Novosti said, citing an unidentified television channel employee as saying.
Medvedev must by Tuesday choose between Sobyanin and three other candidates for Moscow mayor and it was not clear if the error was due to overzealous preparation ahead of the announcement or murkier motives.
Last month, Medvedev dramatically fired Luzhkov after 18 years in the mayoral seat, citing "lack of confidence" as the reason for his dismissal.
Russian television is tightly controlled by the state and rarely steps out of line with the official Kremlin position.
© 2010 AFP