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Controlling the media
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Controlling the Media

The media played a huge, and possibly decisive role in the presidential election of 1996 and may play a major role in the presidential election of June 2000. However, while in 1996 the national broadcast media were united openly behind Boris Yeltsin, against his Communist rival, they were divided during the 1999 parliamentary election. Also, campaign funds available for advertising were more evenly distributed, leading to a more equal battle.

The main media battle of the parliamentary election campaign took place between outlets supporting the government, and those supporting the Fatherland-All Russia alliance, headed by former prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and the Mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov. The fight began months before the election, with Russian Public Television, controlled by media mogul Boris Berezovsky, taking up cudgels against Fatherland-All Russia and its allies in the media - the NTV television station and other outlets of the Most media group. In response, NTV accused Kremlin chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, of involvement in shady financial dealings and of making unconcealed attempts to manipulate the media.

After Fatherland-All Russia came a poor third in the election Mr Luzhkov blamed the Kremlin, accusing it of conducting and "unprecedentedly dirty campaign".

In Russia's provinces, local newspapers are one of the most important campaign tools. Many publications were weakened by the 1998 financial crisis and gave up their independence in return for funding from local businesses, councils or regional governors.