Russia Won't Renew ABC News Credentials

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The Russian government has notified ABC News that it will not be renewing its credentials.

The Foreign Ministry informed ABC of its decision at close of business Moscow time Tuesday; ABC was still trying to determine exactly what it meant since its Moscow bureau credential has no revocation date and individual credentials vary.

The move was prompted by ABC's airing of an interview with the Chechen rebel Shamil Basayev, responsible for last year's horrific Beslan school massacre, the Moscow theater takeover in 2002 and other acts of terrorism. The Russian govenrment has put a $10 million bounty on his head.

Nightline aired the interview last Thursday night, July 28, after buying it from a freelancer that approached the company, according to spokeswoman Emily Lenzner.

Anchor Ted Koppel warned viewers that it would be "among the most controversial in the 25-year history of Nightline."

Lenzner said ABC warned the Russian government beforehand that it would air the interview and offered to let it participate in the broadcast or a future one. The government declined, then seemed to telegraph Tuesday's decision with a Sunday statement that ABC was "persona non grata."

ABC said at press time: "The Russian people have suffered greatly at the hands of Chechen Terrorists. No civilized people can condone the murder of innocent civilians. 

"The mission of a free press is to cover news events – even those involving illegal acts – to help our audience better understand the important issues that confront us all. "ABC News deeply regrets the action taken by the Russian government against ABC journalists operating in Russia, but we cannot allow any government to deter us from reporting the news fully and accurately. We are hopeful that with time the Russian government will reconsider its decision."

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