The former editor-in-chief of Russian news website Lenta, Galina Timchenko, has confirmed that she will be heading a new Latvia-based media portal under the publishing company Medusa Project. In an interview with newspaper Izvestia last week, Timchenko said that the project was currently recruiting employees for the organisation in Riga.
News of a new media project circulated in July this year, after news website Gazeta reported that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon and imprisoned Kremlin critic, was planning to finance a website in Latvia to be run by Timchenko, who denied involvement at the time. Businessman Boris Zimin has also been rumoured to be an investor in the project, but Timchenko has refused to comment on either his or Khodorkovsky's financial connection to the website, stating that she owns 100% of the project.
Timchenko told Izvestia: “I can’t speak for Khodorkovsky and I can’t give any comments regarding whether or not he will acquire a share in the capital.”
Timchenko, who has remained guarded over details of the fledgling project, also refused to discuss the exact location of the new offices, telling Izvestia: “That is none of your business, that’s a private matter.”
The former Lenta editor reiterated that the decision to locate the project's offices in Latvia was the result of "purely economic considerations" rather than political motivations. According to tax expert Sergey Nazarkin, Latvia’s low rate of corporate tax — only 15% in comparison with Russia’s 20% — makes the country an attractive spot for establishing businesses.
In March this year, Timchenko was unexpectedly fired from her post as Lenta’s editor-in-chief and replaced by Kremlin sympathiser Alexei Goreslavsky. Her departure sparked the mass resignation of over 70 journalists from Lenta, many of who are said to make up the core of the new project's editorial team.
Anton Nossik, the founder and one-time editor-in-chief of Lenta, has voiced concerns that Timchenko will face challenges if she launches the new project without investors, telling Izvestia that “the annual budget of the new project will be at least $1m”. Earlier this year, Nossik announced plans to launch at least four online media publications in collaboration with former Lenta staff who resigned in March.
In the face of a crackdown on independent media in Russia, which has intensified following the start of the Ukraine crisis earlier this year, a growing number of new online projects in support of independent journalism have been announced. Late last month, Russian businessman Dmitry Zimin launched a new foundation devoted to supporting independent media in Russia.
- Text: Nadia Beard