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Last Updated: Monday, 31 January, 2005, 15:03 GMT
Russian paper mocks court ruling
Kommersant's front page
The front page photo shows Alfa Bank's boss with Vladimir Putin
The Russian paper Kommersant has published blank pages in protest at a court order to pay $11.4m (6m) in damages to a major bank.

The only article featuring in Monday's issue was the court-ordered denial of a story about last summer's banking crisis, which focused on Alfa Bank.

The denial appeared on the front page - but printed upside-down.

Above it was a photograph of Alfa Bank boss Mikhail Fridman shaking hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The bank said the article published by the newspaper last July, when a number of Russian banks experienced difficulties, precipitated a run by its depositors.

Special issue

Kommersant, a leading business daily, argued that similar articles were published by other newspapers at the time.

The paper said it was singled out because of its independent editorial policy and because it is owned by exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, an outspoken critic of President Putin.

The bitter debate continued for half a year, with Mikhail Fridman and Kommersant's editor-in-chief Andrei Vasilyev even confronting each other in a TV show called Duel.

A brief note to readers published in Monday's edition says:

"As Kommersant has warned, this issue of the newspaper will be entirely dedicated to Alfa Bank and personally to Mikhail Fridman. To make them pleased."

It then goes on to assure the readers that subsequent editions will appear in the normal format "even if the individual (see photo) or the legal entity mentioned above find it unpleasant".

The paper's headline on Monday said "Full plaintiff" - a nonsense, but it rhymes with a crude Russian expression.


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