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Poroshenko Puts the Squeeze on Media, Threatens TV Channel

The oligarch president is clearly worried the Russophobia he's helped whip up will come back to bite him in the behind

This article originally appeared at The Moscow Times

A Ukrainian television channel has published a statement by its former producer, claiming officials from President Petro Poroshenko's administration banned the channel from broadcasting footage of a handshake the Ukrainian leader exchanged with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at a recent meeting.

The handshake took place at the start of a meeting in Paris on Oct. 2, but when television channel 112 Ukraina was preparing a report about the gathering, it received a “barrage of calls” from the presidential administration and security services “about the unacceptability of showing the handshake on the air,” former producer Viktor Zubritsky said on his Facebook page Sunday.

“So, Poroshenko shook Putin's hand, but did not want Ukrainians to known about it,” Zubritsky said. “And somehow strangely, all of Ukraine's television channels did not notice that event.”

The television channel reprinted the post in full on its website, without adding any comment. It also included a photo, credited to France's Foreign Ministry, of Putin and Poroshenko shaking hands.

Zubritsky also accused the Ukrainian president of putting pressure on 112 Ukraina, and linked a recent court warrant to search the channel's offices to the channel's refusal to shelve the footage of the handshake.

“Poroshenko, with the help of his cohorts … has been using the usual arsenal of a tyrant — threats of opening or closing criminal cases, threats of revoking the digital [broadcasting] license,” Zubritsky said.

The image Ukrainians are forbidden to see

The channel is under investigation on suspicion of money laundering, Zubritsky said, describing the case as punishment for 112 Ukraina's critical coverage of the president.

“This final refusal to 'not show his handshake' has led to a Ukrainian court approving on Friday, Oct. 16, a warrant to search within a month the offices of 112 Ukraina television and to seize all computers, digital data-storage devices and so on,” Zubritsky said. “In other words — to carry out technical moves toward terminating the television channel's work.”

The 112 Ukraina channel has received several government warnings this year for supposedly violating the terms of its broadcasting license, Russia's RBC business news agency reported.

Putin and Poroshenko, along with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, met in Paris on Oct. 2 in an attempt to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists are fighting Kiev government forces.

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