Publication: Fortnight in Review Volume: 6 Issue: 18

Coincidentally or not, by the fortnight’s close, Gusinsky and Media-Most were once again in the hot seat, with the revelation that Gusinsky had signed an agreement to hand over Media-Most to the media arm of Gazprom, the 38-percent state-owned natural gas company. In return, the agreement’s other signatories, Gazprom-Media chief Alfred Kokh and Press Minister Mikhail Lesin, agreed to pay Gusinsky US$350 million and forgive Media-Most’s US$473 million debt to Gazprom. They also agreed to have the charges against Gusinsky in a three-year-old corruption case dropped and a travel ban imposed on him by the Prosecutor General’s Office lifted. Gusinsky responded by saying that the agreement was invalid because it was signed under duress. Gusinsky’s deputy, Igor Malashenko, denounced Lesin and Kokh as “state racketeers,” which in turn led to a series of high-profile accusations and counter-accusations, challenges to televised debates and lawsuit threats.

Amid all the mudslinging, the Kremlin gave an indication of how it might try to avoid such unpleasantness in the future. Putin signed off on an “information security doctrine” developed by his advisory Security Council, which was aimed, among other things, at thwarting “the spread of false information on the policy of the Russian Federation, activities of federal power structures, and events in this country and abroad.” One critic warned that the doctrine could herald the “return of a Soviet-style propaganda machine.”