The Russian government’s radio news outlet Voice of Russia abruptly shut down its Washington, D.C., bureau on Monday and laid off the staff, amid allegations of tax-dodging and employee discrimination at the network, sources told the Washington Free Beacon.
VOR’s employment practices have come under scrutiny from IRS and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in recent months.
The head of the radio bureau, Alexei Iazlovsky, pleaded guilty last year to using several of his companies, including Russian TV news outlet RTTV America, to dodge taxes. He is scheduled for sentencing later this year.
"I think it just got to a point where it was just too much," one long-time VOR employee, who was laid off on Monday, told the Free Beacon.
The radio station was allegedly yanked off the airwaves last week, but employees said they were not informed of the decision to shut down the bureau until a meeting on Monday morning.
The meeting was called by VOR budget manager Roman Tokman, an alleged relative of Iazlovsky’s, who sources say appears to still be employed by Russian TV news outlet RT America.
"As far as we can tell, [Roman Tokman] still has a job, as I understand it, because Roman is in charge of multiple facets of both RT and VOR," an employee said.
VOR sources said the radio outlet would likely be reorganized under another company that is not controlled by Iazlovsky, although it is not clear when this would happen. They also said some of the employees would likely be hired back if this occurs.
"There’s going to be something else taking its place in the quasi near-future. Because it’s Moscow everything always takes longer," an employee said. "From what I’ve gathered, I think it’s probably going to be in the next six months to a year."
Admitted tax fraudster Iazlovsky ran the company Intl. TV Services, which employees say is indistinguishable from VOR on paper.
VOR staffers are officially employed by Intl. TV Services, according to their paychecks and other employment documents. The Free Beacon has been unable to verify that VOR exists as its own registered entity in the United States.
An employee said the radio station has been airing broadcasts from VOR bureaus outside of the United States since the Washington bureau was removed from the airwaves last week. The staffer said the foreign dispatches could end completely at the end of the month once the station’s contract runs out.
"If [the Russians] decide to let the station go dark at the end of the month, and it does, then they have to reapply," the employee said. "If they come up with a new deal before the station goes dark they won’t have to reapply."
Tokman did not respond to request for comment.
Published under: Russia