US imposes sanctions on National Media Group chair Kabaeva

The US, along with the EU and UK, has imposed sanctions on the chair of Russia’s National Media Group (NMG), Alina Kabaeva.

Kabaeva, a former Olympic gymnast, is widely believed to be in a long-term relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin, although the latter has denied they are romantically involved.

She was previously a member of the Russian State Duma, the country’s parliament, and had hosted TV shows on two of NMG’s channels, Ren TV and Channel Five.

She resigned from the Duma to take up the role at NMG, replacing the son of Rossiya Bank boss Yuri Kovalchuk, owner of the media outfit.

“Alina Maratovna Kabaeva (Kabaeva) is a former member of the State Duma. Kabaeva was designated today pursuant to E.O. 14024 for being or having been a leader, official, senior executive officer, or member of the board of directors of the Government of the Russian Federation. Kabaeva has a close relationship to Putin and is the current head of the National Media Group, a pro-Kremlin empire of television, radio, and print organizations. She has also been sanctioned by the EU and the UK,” the US Treasury Dept said, as it unveiled its latest list of sanctioned individuals and companies linked to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

TV assets

In addition to Ren TV and Channel 5, NMG has interests in national Russian channels Channel One and St Petersburg channel 78, part of media outlet Izvestia.

Other TV assets include production group CTC, Media Telecom, producer and the Russian distributor of Fox, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild and Baby TV, and pay TV outfit Viasat. The latter, created as a JV with UK-based Viasat World in which NMG had an 80% stake, operates channels including TV1000, TV1000 Action, TV1000 Russkoe Kino – the country’s leading pay TV movie channel – Viasat Explore, Viasat History and Viasat Nature.

Nordic media outfit MTG, formerly also the owner of the company that became Viasat World, was previously the owner of CTS, but was forced to sell up to meet the strict foreign ownership rules introduced by Russia in 2016.

NMG’s numerous other assets include Star Media Vision, created as a production JV with Star Media and leading Russian streaming service

NMG, which last year appointed Gazprom Media executive Svetlana Balanova as CEO, replacing long-serving chief executive Olga Paskina, does not itself appear as yet on the US Treasury’s sanctions list, although Channel One does.

Russian media companies on which sanctions have been imposed include Gazprom Media, owner of the NTV national channel and NTV+ pay TV service.

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