06MOSCOW8507, THE POLITICAL SKIRMISH BEHIND THE “MOSKOVSKIYE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW8507 2006-08-09 13:50 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5329
RR RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #8507/01 2211350
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 091350Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0164
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 008507 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/02/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PINR RS
SUBJECT: THE POLITICAL SKIRMISH BEHIND THE "MOSKOVSKIYE 
NOVOSTI" NEWSPAPER:  AN INSIDER'S VIEW 
 
Classified By: A/POL Colin Cleary.  Reasons: 1.4 (b/d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY:  Late last year, Israeli businessman Arkadiy 
Gaydamak bought the liberal weekly newspaper "Moskovskiy 
Novostiy" (MN) and promptly announced it would become a 
pro-Kremlin publication.  The newspaper's deputy editor in 
chief, Svetlana Babayeva, told us July 31 that over half a 
year after that move, the newspaper's future direction 
remains unclear, although no one on the staff questions that 
MN will promote Kremlin views.  Most notably, Babayeva told 
us, the move appears to have been made at the instruction of 
Presidential Administration (PA) deputy head Vladislav 
Surkov, who wants control of the newspaper to counter 
Presidential press spokesman Aleksey Gromov's growing 
influence over the media.  Babayeva offers an interesting 
description over how the skirmishing inside the Kremlin is 
playing out with regard to the fate of a once venerable 
liberally oriented newspaper.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
2. (U) Controversial Israeli businessman Arkadiy Gaydamak 
stirred controversy in October 2005 when he bought the weekly 
newspaper "Moskovskiye Novostiy" and promptly declared that 
he would transform it into a pro-Kremlin publication.  The 
newspaper had previously been run by opposition journalist 
Yevgeniy Kiselev, under whom it had gone through difficult 
times.  Shortly after making his purchase, Gaydamak pulled 
what some saw as another surprise by appointing Vitaliy 
Tretyakov, a political analyst and founder of Nezavisimaya 
Gazeta, as chief editor of MN.  In what some also saw as 
surprising, Svetlana Babayeva, widely considered an 
independent journalist despite her recent stint in the London 
bureau of the GOR-affiliated press agency RIA-Novosti, was 
made Tretyakov's deputy. 
. 
SURKOV VS GROMOV 
---------------- 
 
3. (C) Some media insiders had told us that PA deputy head 
Surkov had become actively engaged with MN.  Indeed, Ekho 
Moskvy chief editor Aleksey Venediktov had told us that 
Surkov had personally called Babayeva to ask that she assume 
the MN deputy editorship.  In our July 31 conversation, 
Babayeva denied getting any such call from Surkov but 
believed that he had suggested her as a potentially promising 
candidate for the position. 
 
4. (C) Nonetheless, Babayeva said she was convinced that 
Surkov had been behind the Gaydamak deal.  Over the past 
year, Babayeva continued, Presidential spokesman Gromov had 
been gaining increasing power over the media, in part at 
Surkov's expense.  That shift, Babayeva posited, resulted 
because Putin trusted Gromov to "clear the media field" ahead 
of the 2007-08 election cycle.  Surkov, wanting to maintain 
influence within the media, sought to develop MN as "his own" 
newspaper, according to Babayeva.  Gromov certainly perceived 
things that way, Babayeva continued:  when she had asked for 
Gromov's assistance with access to Russian officials during 
the St. Petersburg G8 Summit, he had responded, with obvious 
irritation, that she should pose such requests to Surkov, 
since she was working for Surkov's newspaper. 
 
5. (C) The Surkov-Gromov rivalry was part of the continuing 
infighting within the Kremlin, which was growing more intense 
as the national election cycle neared, Babayeva said.  She 
noted that curious alliances sometimes formed, with Surkov 
reportedly even briefly allying with the PA's other deputy 
head, Igor Sechin.  Those reports had been backed by rumors 
that Surkov had even put in his office a photo of himself 
standing with Sechin.  Visiting Surkov's office and not 
seeing that photo, Babayeva decided to ask him about it, she 
related.  Surkov had responded -- apparently in all 
seriousness -- that he had displayed it briefly but then 
removed it. 
. 
UNCERTAINTY ABOUT MN'S DIRECTION 
-------------------------------- 
 
6. (C) Such skirmishing put MN in a difficult situation, 
Babayeva said.  Similarly, the newspaper was hamstrung by 
having a chief editor more interested and experienced in 
analyzing politics than in managing a newspaper.  Gaydamak 
had never expected MN to become profitable but wanted the 
newspaper to be at least somewhat commercially viable.  Yet 
MN's staff was still waiting for Tretyakov to provide some 
direction on a strategy to boost readership and advertising, 
Babayeva continued, without which the newspaper would remain 
in its long-standing rut. 
. 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
 
MOSCOW 00008507  002 OF 002 
 
 
7. (C) Babayeva has long been a valued Embassy contact who 
has given us some fascinating insights into the Kremlin's 
workings.  While her story about a brief Surkov-Sechin 
alliance may not be convincing, her description about how a 
Surkov-Gromov rivalry plays out with regards to a newspaper 
looking to become more pro-Kremlin sounds more persuasive. 
Gaydamak's purchase of the newspaper removed it from the 
hands of the outspokenly oppositionist Kiselev, and may have 
turned it into something of a potential political instrument 
for Surkov, although it has yet to res
ult in a more 
financially viable publication and its future remains unclear. 
RUSSELL

Wikileaks

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