MOSCOW - A group of journalists who quit a top Russian business newspaper last month after accusing their new editor-in-chief of introducing pro-Kremlin censorship said on Monday that they were setting up a new rival media outlet. Five senior editors resigned last month from Vedomosti after complaints at the newspaper that acting editor-in-chief Andrei Shmarov was censoring coverage critical of President Vladimir Putin and had threatened to fire staff who broke his rules. At least four of those editors and several other journalists said they were setting up an online media outlet called VTimes that would launch later this year and cover many of the same areas as Vedomosti. "We believe Russia like never before needs independent sources of information that can be trusted, it needs platforms for the free exchange of opinions and for professional expertise," they said in a statement on the new outlet. Shmarov denies threatening to fire staff. He said his editorial decisions were his alone and were not dictated to him by outside parties. Shmarov was appointed acting editor-in-chief in March following an announcement that two businessmen would be buying the paper. A Vedomosti editorial complained Shmarov had banned the publication of opinion polls carried out by a research firm this year that showed Putin's approval rating had fallen to a two-decade low. A reporter said Shmarov had banned negative coverage of Putin's constitutional reforms. Shmarov said Vedomosti was continuing to publish news items on subjects which he had been accused of banning. REUTERS
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