MOSCOW (AP) _ Beleaguered Russian independent media company Media-Most on Thursday denied claims by a Kremlin aide that it may be sold to the state-controlled natural gas monopoly, Gazprom.

In a statement, Media-Most confirmed it was holding talks with Gazprom on possibly handing over some stock as payment for a loan, but it insisted that control over the media company will not change hands. The company accused the Kremlin of trying to disrupt its finances and silence the reporting of its news outlets, which have been critical of President Vladimir Putin.

A Gazprom spokesman would not release any details of the talks.

Gazprom already owns about 30 percent of Media-Most's NTV television channel and holds 17-20 percent more of NTV's stock as collateral for a loan. Gazprom has been stepping up pressure on NTV in recent months to settle its debts.

Word of a deal emerged Thursday when The New York Times quoted Vladislav Surkov, the deputy chief of the presidential administration, as saying Media-Most holdings may be sold to Gazprom to pay debts.

But Media-Most said Surkov's comments were a ``lie.'' It called Surkov a ``high-ranking Kremlin bureaucrat who is responsible exclusively for political questions.''

``Media-Most has no doubt that the final goals of this activity are purely political: To impose total control by the state over all mass media in the country,'' the statement said.

Media-Most had been accused of defrauding the government in a privatization deal, and its owner, Vladimir Gusinsky, was jailed for four days in June in a case that some observers regarded as punishment for Media-Most's criticism of the Kremlin. The charges against Gusinsky were abruptly dropped last week for lack of evidence.