Sergey Dorenko, journalist who criticized Putin on state TV, dies at 59
Sergey Dorenko, who served as the editor-in-chief of the radio station Govorit Moskva until 2014, died on May 9. Most Russians know Dorenko as the host of the TV show Vremya and then of his own program on Public Russian Television (ORT), which became Channel One in 2002. Dorenko was fired from his state TV job in September of 2000 after he released a segment on the Kursk submarine disaster, which killed all 118 of the vessel’s crewmembers. In the segment, Dorenko sharply criticized the Russian government’s response as well as Vladimir Putin’s individual actions during the rescue mission. Russian speakers can watch the segment and English speakers can read about its context below.
The Sergey Dorenko Show gave its host the nickname “telekiller.” Just before Boris Yeltsin’s retirement, Dorenko used his platform to launch an aggressive critique of former Russian prime minister Yevgeny Primakov and former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, both potential rivals for Vladimir Putin in the upcoming presidential elections. Dorenko didn’t hide the fact that he wholeheartedly opposed Putin’s opponents and even integrated their personal lives into his arguments.
Half a year after Putin’s inauguration, however, the Kursk submarine exploded and sank, killing everyone on board. Soon afterward, Dorenko broadcasted a segment on the disaster that sharply criticized Putin. He later explained his motivations as follows: “I said, ‘This is going to be my punch for [the submarine crew from] the Vidyayevo base.” Dorenko used a federal television channel to display the living conditions Russian submarine operators were forced to endure, and then he turned to the errors and inaccuracies in the president’s statements about the Kursk explosion, saying the president was trying to exonerate himself for the death of the crew. “The main conclusion here is that the government doesn’t respect us all. That’s why it’s lying. And the main thing is that the government talks to us this way solely because we let it. Goodbye,” he said, and went off the air.
After the segment was released, the channel’s CEO, Konstantin Ernst, told Dorenko he was fired.