Magazine ‘pulled’ after mocking St. Petersburg governor

A major Russian publisher accused the authorities on Thursday of ordering the withdrawal from sale of copies of a business weekly that criticized St. Petersburg’s outgoing governor, Valentina Matviyenko.

The July 4 edition of the Kommersant Vlast magazine sarcastically commended Matviyenko – widely expected to become the new speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament – for her “services” in dealing with the city’s icicle problem.

Falling icicles have killed dozens of people in St. Petersburg in the last two years, and Matviyenko’s administration had been criticized for not doing enough to clear roofs and balconies during spring thaws.

The Kommersant publishing house said that St.Petersburg’s major press distributors, Metropress and Neva-press, had withdrawn some “90 percent” of the magazine’s print run after a verbal government order.

But city official for media relations, Alexander Korennikov, denied the claims.

“There were no orders to withdraw the magazine,” he told the Moscow-based Ekho Moskvi radio station. “As far as I know, Kommersant has a small print run in St.Petersburg. It’s possible it just sold out quickly.”

Neva-press also rejected the allegations.

But Kommersant cited a distribution source as saying that the order to withdraw the magazine had been given by the city’s media committee the day after the Matviyenko issue hit the newsstands. Kommersant readers in the city confirmed that Vlast was no impossible to locate. The magazine is however still on sale in Moscow and other cites across Russia.

“If the magazine really was withdrawn, this is insulting for the city’s reputation,” the head of Russia’s Journalist Union, Vsevolod Bogdanov said. “It will not boost Valentina Matviyenko’s popularity.”

President Dmitry Medvedev asked Matviyenko to become Federation Council speaker, the country’s third most important post, after longtime speaker Sergei Mironov was ousted by the ruling United Russia party over criticism of the St. Petersburg governor. She agreed, and will now seek election to a municipal post in order to become eligible for the post.

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