Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 112

Vladimir Gusinsky, founder and head of the Media-Most publishing and broadcasting group, said in an interview published today that the powers-that-be have on more than one occasion suggested, first, that he get out of the media business and, second, that they are now trying to pressure him into selling off a controlling share in Media-Most. Gusinsky, whose offices were the object of a raid and search by armed government agents on May 11, said that there were several possible scenarios for how Media-Most’s conflict with the authorities might develop. One is that Putin turns out to be “wiser than some think him to be” and gets rid of those who have been behind the actions against Media-Most, along with “several figures from the special services.” Another possibility, he said, is that pressure on Media-Most will continue, including possible new “provocations,” with the possibility that people from Media-Most might answer in kind–a development which Gusinsky said he would not welcome. The media tycoon said that one way of resolving the problem would simply be to give up–which would simply entail picking up the telephone and asking his foes for a meeting–but that this would mean the end of “independent journalism” in Russia and that he and his “comrades in arms” did not want to yield, nor to yield so easily (Obshchaya gazeta, June 8).

While Gusinsky did not name his foes, he claimed in an interview last week that Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, a reputed member of the Kremlin “Family” and ally of Boris Berezovsky, had offered him US$100 million last year to drop out of the media business for the period of the parliamentary campaign (see the Monitor, June 2). Voloshin and Co. were working to get candidates from the pro-Kremlin Unity party into the State Duma, while Media-Most was highly critical of the Kremlin and sympathetic to Fatherland-All Russia, the movement led by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

Meanwhile, a newspaper claimed today that the May 11 raid on Media-Most’s headquarters was aimed at seizing all materials concerning the media holding’s relationship with Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly. The paper cited what it said was an analytical document prepared by Russia’s special services, stating the special services’ interest in a credit that Media-Most received from Credit Suisse First Boston under a Gazprom guarantee. According to the paper, Media-Most gave Gazprom a 40-percent stake in the holding itself and smaller stakes in some of its subsidiaries (including the Seven Days publishing house) as collateral for the loan guarantee. According to the paper, the value of the shares given as collateral was worth nearly US$600 million. The paper implied that the raid was aimed at getting control of those shares (Novaya gazeta, June 8).

Following the May 11 raid, various law enforcement officials claimed that Media-Most’s security service had been carrying out illegal surveillance and eavesdropping. Gusinsky said in his interview that Media-Most’s security service was used mainly to guard various buildings and sometimes to protect journalists working for the holding’s various outlets who were involved in dangerous assignments. Gusinsky admitted that the security service had anti-bugging equipment (Obshchaya gazeta, June 8). A Moscow court ruled last week that the May 11 raid on Media-Most’s headquarters was illegally carried out and ordered that the documents seized from the holding be returned. The Prosecutor General’s Office, which was in charge of the search, said it will appeal the court decision (Kommersant, June 3).

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