The Kremlin’s campaign to break Vladimir Gusinsky’s grip on Media Most, which includes NTV television, is now in its sixth month. Gusinsky has been raided, arrested, jailed, and charged with fraud and embezzlement. He was then released with charges dropped after promising to sell his shares to minority partner Gazprom, the natural-gas monopoly that operates as an arm of the Russian state.
From the safety of Western Europe Gusinsky repudiated his promise, and Gazprom has filed suit to gain control of Media Most shares that were pledged as collateral for a $400 million loan Gazprom made to the company. Now state-owned Sberbank is piling on, calling in a loan of $100 million on the grounds that the troubles with Gazprom damage Media Most’s creditworthiness. Gazprom’s chairman said last week a “European media holding” company is interested in buying into Media Most, but Press Minister Mikhail Lesin says foreign investment should be limited to 5 or 10 percent.