Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 137

Vladimir Gusinsky, head of Media-Most, appears to remain the biggest victim thus far of the state’s tightening grip. Jailed briefly after his arrest in May, Gusinsky remains under investigation for allegedly embezzling state funds. And now the authorities are apparently preparing to add new charges against him. Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov has reportedly sent a letter to Gennady Bukaev, Russia’s tax minister, alleging that while investigating Gusinsky on the original charges, his office had found that the media magnate, his deputy Igor Malashenko and other Media-Most executives had evaded paying taxes on revenues received in Russia and abroad. Kolmogorov asked Bukaev to order an investigation. Kolmogorov reportedly also wrote the prosecutor’s office for Moscow transport to investigate “Aviamost,” the private airline company owned by Gusinsky (Segodnya, July 13). Earlier this week, investigators carried out new searches at Media-Most’s headquarters in Moscow, and reportedly seized various founding documents, including a list of its shareholders. Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov subsequently announced that his investigators had discovered “wrongdoing” in the Media-Most case (Russian agencies, July 12).

Gusinsky, meanwhile, told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that he fears his life may be in danger and that a “police regime” was being reestablished in Russia. He also said that while he liked Spain, where he and his family maintain a home, he hopes he will not be forced to emigrate there. Gusinsky said that President Vladimir Putin turned against him after Media-Most’s outlets began criticizing the war in Chechnya. He also said that one of the reasons he had become a “victim of persecution” is because Russians “try to destroy” rich people, whom they inherently envy and hate, and because he, Gusinsky, is a Jew (Russian agencies, July 13). Various top officials have denied that the criminal investigation into Gusinsky and Media-Most is politically motivated, and Press Minister Mikhail Lesin issued such a denial again this week (AP, July 12).

The Israeli Knesset, meanwhile, has invited Gusinsky, who heads the Russian Jewish Congress, to testify in hearings concerning the restitution of property seized from Jews who were repressed under the Soviet system. Gusinsky’s lawyers have asked the authorities to give their client permission to travel. Gusinsky signed a pledge not to leave Moscow as a condition of his release from prison in May, and he has been repeatedly refused permission to travel abroad (Russian agencies, July 13).