Russian Ekho Moskvy Radio director Fedutinov dismissed

Screen grab of Ekho Moskvy website Ekho Moskvy has editorial independence but is 66%-owned by Gazprom Media

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The head of one of Russia's few remaining independent broadcasters, Ekho Moskvy, has been dismissed and replaced by an editor from state media.

Yuri Fedutinov has been in charge of the radio station since 1992. The new director, Yekaterina Pavlova, worked most recently at Voice of Russia.

Ekho Moskvy is one of the few independent voices in Russian media.

Its editor said it was an "unjust" and "totally political decision" aimed at changing editorial policy.

In recent weeks, an independent TV channel, Dozhd, has been dropped by satellite and cable operators.

The news story on the Ekho Moskvy (Echo Moscow) website said that the decision to replace Mr Fedutinov had been taken "without explanation" at a meeting of the radio station's shareholders.

Mr Fedutinov was quoted as saying that the shareholders had a right to replace him, but "they must clarify their position and reasons for such a decision".

A lawyer acting for the station's journalists, themselves minority shareholders, told Ria Novosti news agency that the shareholders had the right to ask why he had been removed.

Although it is two-thirds owned by Gazprom Media, part of the state gas monopoly, Ekho Moskvy has been known for its independent voice and its critical stance towards the Kremlin.

Mr Fedutinov's replacement was chief editor of state-run Vesti TV news programmes before moving to Voice of Russia, where she was deputy chairwoman.

Nataliya Sindeyeva, Dozhd director, at a news conference on 10 February TV Channel Dozhd is on the brink of collapse after it was dropped by satellite and cable providers

Ekho Moskvy's long-serving editor, Alexei Venediktov, has described Mr Fedutinov's removal as "unjust and dishonest" and a "totally political decision" intended to put pressure on Ekho's editorial policy, which he insisted would remain unchanged. However, Mr Venediktov's position may not itself be secure as he is up for re-election next month.

Last week, Ekho Moskvy was caught up in a row over Russia's gold medal-winning skater Yulia Lipnitskaya, when it posted remarks by a leading Kremlin critic on its website.

Viktor Shenderovich complained that the 15-year-old girl's victory was being used to boost President Vladimir Putin's ratings and compared the public response to the 1936 victory of a German shot-putter at Hitler's Berlin Olympics.

Ekho Moskvy was widely criticised and compared to a TV Dozhd (Rain) decision to run an internet poll on the World War Two siege of Leningrad.

The TV channel has since been abandoned by all cable and satellite providers and is on the brink of collapse.

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