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Two media organizations owned by disgraced oligarch Khodorkovsky to cease operations - websites banned by Russian media watchdog

Two media organizations owned by disgraced oligarch Khodorkovsky to cease operations - websites banned by Russian media watchdog
Two media organizations owned by disgraced 1990's oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky are to cease operations entirely after Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered their websites to be banned and blocked throughout the country.

The decision to shut down was announced on Thursday, one day after Roskomnadzor’s ruling.

The affected outlets are Open Media and MBKh Media, both funded by Khodorkovsky, a former businessman who spent a decade in prison on fraud charges. He is now based in London.

A third Khodorkovsky organization – a ‘human rights’ group called Pravozashchita Otkrytki – has also announced its intention to close down after its website was similarly restricted.

The decision to block the outlets came as Roskomnadzor accused them of being “information resources” of the Open Russia Civic Movement and Open Russia, two organizations recognized as “undesirable” in Russia.

According to both MBKh and Open Media, the outlets decided to shut down as a way to protect the people working at the publications, with the editors believing that workers could be targeted by law enforcement. Both publications have completely denied having ever worked with so-called “undesirable organizations.”

Writing on Facebook, MBKh Media Editor-in-Chief Veronika Kutsyllo revealed that she is “not ready to jeopardize the freedom and lives of other people.”

Similarly, the editorial board of Open Media issued a statement explaining that neither Roskomnadzor nor the General Prosecutor’s Office has explained the reason for blocking the site, but the staff had decided to shut down “because the risks for the employees are too great.”

“Unfortunately, the government does not need media projects with a critical view of what is happening in the country. The more criticism, the shorter the life of the project. But at least we tried,” Open Media’s statement concluded.

Earlier this year, another organization owned by Khodorkovsky shut down for a similar reason, fearing a future crackdown. In May, the disgraced former tycoon shut down Open Russia, with its head Andrey Pivovarov revealing that he had expelled every member to stop possible fines or criminal cases.

Once believed to be the wealthiest man in Russia, Khodorkovsky was arrested on controversial fraud charges in 2003. He served a decade in prison before receiving a presidential pardon from Vladimir Putin in 2013. His case was mainly linked to the collapse of Yukos, an energy company he bought for a fraction of its value as part of an allegedly rigged auction, which was once described as the “swindle of the century.”

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