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Russian media campaigns against Moscow mayor

Seen as return to Kremlin-controlled TV

Kremlin watchers recalled an earlier era of post-Soviet media, as a TV assault on Moscow’s mayor and his wealthy wife rolled out this month.

The programs on state-supported and controlled webs including NTV, Rossiya 24, Rossiya and the First Channel, are highly critical of Yuri Luzhkov and his property developer wife Elena Baturina — said to be the world’s third-richest woman.

They added fuel to a simmering dispute between Luzhkov and President Dmitry Medvedev, who is allegedly looking to oust the mayor, who has been in office for 18 years. Medvedev believes Luzhkov has been trying to create a rift between him and prime minister (and former president) Vladimir Putin.

NTV’s docu “Darling Elena Nikolaevna” focused on what it called “the richest and perhaps most mysterious woman in Russia” — the mayor’s wife. It questioned how Elena, who runs property company Inteko, became so wealthy, and probed allegations of corruption against city officials.

It also accused Luhkov, an avid apiarist, of caring more about his bees than the people of Moscow, and alleged he donated more money to beekeepers than to residents affected by the smog of August’s forest fires.

Luzhkov, in remarks to Moscow-based Ren TV, called the recent spate of programs “dirt collected to put pressure” on him. His wife said Inteko would start legal proceedings against the TV stations for airing “damaging and false statements.”

NTV head Vladimir Kulistikov says the station has evidence to back up its allegations.

Industryites expect this soap to run and run.