Move follows interview with Lavrov

Georgia has pulled the plug on the last Russian-language TV channel operating in its territory after complaining that it aired uncompromising comments by Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov about the future of separatist South Ossetia.

The Georgian Assn. of Cable Broadcasters took RTVi off the air Monday, stating the channel had contravened the state of martial law that had existed in the country since Aug. 8. RTVi has aired on satellite and cable in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Australia and the U.S. for 11 years.

Georgian authorities blocked transmission of Russian state and commercial broadcasters and interrupted many Russian Internet domains soon after launching its military assault on South Ossetia on Aug. 8.

Russia’s massive armed response the next day sparked five days of fighting before a French-brokered cease-fire brought an end to combat last week, leaving Russian forces deep inside Georgia.

RTVi fell victim to the information war that has accompanied the conflict after it broadcast comments by Lavrov last week in which he bluntly stated that Georgia could “forget about” getting back South Ossetia and its other breakaway region, Abkhazia.

Alexey Vendiktov, editor in chief of Russia’s respected independent radio station Ekho Moskvy, which airs 21 hours of its news programming a week on RTVi, slammed the Georgians for gagging the channel.

“Only authoritarian and totalitarian governments are afraid of independent and professional mass media because they are afraid of the truth,” he told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

He added that Ekho Moskvy had transmitted political news to Georgia via RTVi, as it was the only source of unbiased, authoritative news on the Russian position for Georgian listeners. He pledged that RTVi and Ekho Moskvy would continue to work professionally, “independent of the whims of politicians, even if those politicians were heads of state.”

Last week, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin accused Western media of anti-Russian bias in its coverage of the conflict.

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