Ukraine TV lands in hot water over Russian pop songs

One of Ukraine's biggest TV networks faced the threat on Friday of being taken off air for filling its highly-rated New Year's Eve show with Russian pop songs beamed live from Moscow.

Kiev: One of Ukraine's biggest TV networks faced the threat on Friday of being taken off air for filling its highly-rated New Year's Eve show with Russian pop songs beamed live from Moscow.

The culture minister called the festive if at-times gaudy programme "anti-Ukrainian". The national security and defence council chief saw it as part of a Kremlin-driven "information war".

And a Facebook campaign called for the station's Kiev office to be burned down by a group of nationalists clad in fatigues who were conducting an annual torchlight procession nearby.

But then Inter has been no stranger to controversy since it was created in 1996 with a mission to suit "all social groups" -- an evident reference to the former Soviet republic's numerous Russian speakers.

Much of this notoriety stems from an ownership structure whose roots seem to run directly to the Kremlin.

Inter's controlling stake is split between a lawmaker who headed ousted president Viktor Yanukovych's Moscow-bached administration and a businessman who once traded in Russian gas.

Tycoon Dmytro Firtash -- a mysterious figure who "acknowledged ties to Russian organised crime" in a US diplomatic cable cited by WikiLeaks -- has been out on bail in Austria since March awaiting possible extradition to the United States.

Chicago prosecutors accuse Firtash of bribing Indian officials to secure the right to mine titanium that he intended to sell to the US aerospace giant Boeing.

Inter's other main stakeholder is Channel One, a dominant Russian state channel that accuses the Kiev government of being run by "fascists" who rose to power with the help of the US State Department and CIA.

These owners have made sure the network devotes half its time to either sitcoms produced in Moscow or Soviet-era films that appeal to older people with fond memories of Ukraine's communist past.

The channel has consequently become a lightning rod for criticism from far-right groups and -- most recently -- the pro-Western leaders who replaced Yanukovych after months of winter protests that Inter covered with a mixture of criticism and scorn.

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