American financier Boris Jordan was dismissed Friday as general director of a media firm that owns one of Russia's major television stations.
Observers suggested that Jordan was being punished for NTV's aggressive reporting, particularly its coverage of the seizure of a Moscow theater last year by separatist militants from the republic of Chechnya.
The raid ended with the killing of about 50 militants and the deaths of 129 hostages -- all but two from the effects of knockout gas that special forces pumped into the theater.
"Probably the decision was somehow affected by the rather independent position that NTV and Jordan assumed while reporting on the latest events," Russian Union of Journalists Secretary-General Igor Yakovenko told the Interfax news agency.
Jordan, who is of Russian descent, was fired by the board of directors of Gazprom-Media, said Alexander Dybal, the former board chairman who will succeed Jordan. Gazprom-Media is an arm of the state-connected natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.
Jordan remained head of NTV, but Interfax quoted Dybal as saying management changes could be expected at the station.
"Our views on corporate management and business development strategy differ," Interfax quoted Dybal as saying.
Gazprom-Media took over NTV in a struggle that many believed was motivated by Kremlin resentment of NTV's critical coverage of President Vladimir V. Putin and the war in Chechnya.
Jordan was widely expected to tone down the station's news coverage. But it was of a different tenor than the news reporting of the state-run RTR and ORT channels.