Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 127

Igor Malashenko, first deputy head of Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most group, was briefly stopped from leaving Russia yesterday to attend an economic forum in Salzburg, Austria. Border guards came on board Malashenko’s plane at Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, telling him he could not travel and seizing his passport. Other members of the Media-Most delegation, including Mikhail Berger, editor of Segodnya newspaper, and Aleksei Venediktov, chief editor of Radio Ekho Moskvy, refused to travel without Malashenko. A short time later, after journalists from NTV television were called to the airport, Malashenko’s passport was returned and he was allowed to leave. Malashenko said the incident was a sign that Russia’s special services “have received unlimited powers, which they are incapable of using.” Media-Most spokesman Dmitri Ostalsky said that the incident was “personal revenge” for Malashenko’s recent testimony before the U.S. Congress about threats to press freedom in Russia and for the press conferences he gave in Madrid and Berlin earlier this month after Gusinsky was arrested. For their part, officials from the border guards service denied the incident was politically motivated, but did not make clear why Malashenko’s passport had been briefly seized (NTV, June 28; Moscow Times, June 29).

Meanwhile, the legal wrangling surrounding Media-Most’s battle with the authorities continues. Moscow’s Arbitration Court yesterday ruled in favor of the Most Security Service, which had filed suit against the Moscow police revoking the security service’s license to hold firearms. On the other hand, the Moscow City Court on June 27 overturned a district court’s decision that the May 11 raid of Media-Most’s headquarters in central Moscow was carried out illegally (Moscow Times, June 29; Russian agencies, June 28). Also on June 27, Gusinsky, for a second time, refused to cooperate with investigators who are looking into the charges that the media magnate embezzled at least US$10 million in state funds. Gusinsky refused to answer questions after being summoned to the Prosecutor General’s Office for an interrogation. One of Gusinsky’s lawyers, Genri Reznik, said the “illegal” behavior of the Prosecutor General’s office was bringing great harm not only to Gusinsky himself, but also to the Media-Most holding in general. The Prosecutor General’s Office, which last week refused to allow Gusinsky to fly to London to visit his family, this week refused to allow him to leave the country to attend the Salzburg economic forum. Gusinsky was released from prison several days after his arrest, after signing an agreement not to leave Moscow while he remained under investigation (Russian agencies, June 27-29).