MOSCOW (AP) — Crimea's independent television station ATR went off air at midnight on Tuesday after Russian authorities repeatedly refused to give it a broadcasting license.
ATR was established as the first channel dedicated to the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group of about 300,000 that was deported from the region by the Soviet authorities in 1944. The TV channel was a rare critical voice during Russia's annexation of Crimea last year and continued its critical coverage afterward.
Like other local media outlets, ATR had to get a Russian broadcasting license to continue operating in Crimea.
ATR went off air at midnight on Tuesday in compliance with the Russian law.
Lenur Islyamov, ATR's founder, told a news conference late on Tuesday that four of its filings have been rejected on technicalities. Another filing is pending, but meanwhile there are "no legal grounds" to continue broadcasting starting April 1, he said.
"They don't give us a license because not a single official can guarantee that at some point we won't go on air calling on people to do something," Islyamov said.
ATR continues to broadcast in Ukraine, Islyamov said, but being off air in their homeland is "akin to deportation."
Russia-installed Crimean authorities deny allegations that Russia is stifling dissent in Crimea by refusing to give ATR a license.
Crimea's leader Sergei Aksyonov last month said ATR has filed the documents "with errors on purpose in order flare up a conflict involving the TV station."