Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 138

Another component of the weekend’s political battles was an exchange of charges and countercharges between NTV television–which is part of the Media Most group, founded by the tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky–and ORT, which Berezovsky is said to control. In an interview broadcast on ORT on July 17, Berezovsky criticized Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most group, describing as “categorically dangerous” the “colossal influence which Media-Most has in Russian mass media and thus on “Russia’s political life.” Berezovsky also said that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov must not become president. “Luzhkov is openly saying that he would re-distribute property. But will anyone give it up without a battle?… Luzhkov as president would be dangerous and even detrimental for Russia. There would be bloodshed” (ORT, July 17). Luzhkov has called for the overturning of some privatizations in Russia, saying that he would use the courts to hand back state property where it was privatized illegally.

During the same news program which featured Berezovsky’s interview, ORT, for the second week running, devoted a segment to NTV television’s alleged financial difficulties, including its debts to Gazprom, the state natural gas monopoly, which owns a third of NTV’s shares.

NTV fired back last night on its weekly political analysis program Itogi. Yevgeny Kiselev, the program’s moderator, devoted a fifteen-minute segment to an attack on Berezovsky, ORT and Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin. Kiselev contended that Berezovsky is in trouble as a result of the investigation being carried out by the Swiss authorities into two companies he allegedly controls, through which hundreds of million of dollars of revenues from the Aeroflot state airline were allegedly funneled. To save himself, the Itogi host charged, Berezovsky is trying to take over Gazprom, to “shut the mouth” of NTV and to neutralize Luzhkov. Kiselev took particular aim at Voloshin, describing him as “Korzhakov today”–a reference to the former Yeltsin bodyguard who was a feared figure in Kremlin court politics. The show detailed three alleged financial scams which Voloshin set–several of them supposedly with Berezovsky–in years past.

The Itogi program also featured a long segment devoted to the Swiss investigations into Aeroflot and alleged kickbacks which went from the Swiss construction company Mabetex to top Kremlin officials, including the Kremlin’s property manager, Pavel Borodin, and his wife (see the Monitor, July 15).