The All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Option (VTsIOM) has released a poll reflecting the views of Muscovites toward the arrest and jailing of Media-Most chief Vladimir Gusinsky. The poll was taken on June 21 among approximately 500 adult residents of the Russian capital.
Asked whether they had heard about Gusinsky’s arrest and, if so, to describe their feelings toward it, 25 percent of the respondents said “satisfaction” characterized their feelings, 20 percent answered “bewilderment,” 8 percent said “indignation,” 7 percent said “alarm” and 2 percent said “fear.” Thirty-two percent of those polled said Gusinsky’s arrest aroused “no emotions” at all, 3 percent said they had not heard about it, and another 3 percent said the question was hard to answer. Among the 25 percent who reacted to Gusinsky’s arrest with “satisfaction,” 66 percent said their answer was a statement against the “oligarchs,” 21 percent said it was a statement against privatization, 7 percent said it was a statement against Jews, 6 percent said it reflected their “malicious satisfaction” over “squabbling at the top,” and 1 percent said it was a statement against “the democrats” and the mass media. Asked what they thought was the goal behind Gusinsky’s arrest, 23 percent of those polled said they thought it was part of the fight against “the criminal business” of Gusinsky and his team; 18 percent said they thought it was an attempt to intimidate journalists, NTV (Media-Most’s TV station) and the opposition, and to weaken Gusinsky’s media empire; 12 percent said they thought it was an attempt to impose order in the country and “deal with” the oligarchs; 11 percent said they thought it was an attempt to investigate Gusinsky’s financial abuses and privatization affairs; another 11 percent said they thought it was an attempt to “get even” with Gusinsky for supporting Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and the Fatherland-All Russia movement and for refusing to cut deals with the authorities; 8 percent said they thought it was an attempt to put NTV and Gusinsky’s media empire under the authorities’ control; another 8 percent said they thought it was an attempt to ruin Gusinsky’s business reputation or his business; 2 percent said they thought it was an attempt to prevent Gusinsky from leaving the country.
Asked whether they thought the Prosecutor General’s Office took the initiative to arrest Gusinsky on its own or whether “other forces” were behind the arrest, 27 percent said that the Prosecutor General’s Office did it on its own, 24 percent said President Vladimir Putin was behind it, 18 percent suggested that unspecified “other forces” were behind it, 11 percent said that Kremlin chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin and the presidential administration were behind it, 9 percent said that Boris Berezovsky was behind it, 8 percent said that the “Family” and/or former President Boris Yeltsin’s inner circle were behind it. Asked whether they thought Gusinsky had been involved in any “financial machinations,” 83 percent answered yes, 6 percent answered no. Fifty-seven percent said they thought Gusinsky’s arrest had a political “underlying cause,” 18 percent said it did not. Asked why they thought Gusinsky had been released from Butyrka prison, 31 percent said it was a result of pressure from public opinion and the media, 25 percent said it was because of the arrest’s “social resonance” in the West, 15 percent said it was because Putin viewed Gusinsky’s arrest negatively, 13 percent said it was because the “intimidation” attempt had been successfully completed and thus the tycoon could be released, 6 percent said it was because jailing Gusinsky had been excessive, 5 percent said it was because the authorities had gained some sort of information or concession from Gusinsky, 4 percent said it was because Gusinsky’s arrest had been groundless.
Asked how the case against Gusinsky might develop, 50 percent predicted that the investigation would last a long time, 23 percent predicted that it would soon be dropped for lack of evidence, 8 percent predicted that it would soon be taken to court. Asked whether they thought the law enforcement agencies might soon target financial abuses by other oligarchs, such as Boris Berezovsky, 29 percent said yes, 43 percent said no. Asked whether they thought Putin knew about plans for Gusinsky’s arrest in advance, 71 percent answered yes, 14 percent said no. Forty-one percent of those polled said Putin had shown “weakness and helplessness” in the Gusinsky affair, 25 percent said he had shown “strength and decisiveness.” Given another set of qualities to choose from, 49 percent of those polled said that Putin had demonstrated “hypocrisy” and a propensity toward “intrigues” in the Gusinsky affair, 18 percent said that he had shown “honesty and decency” (Russian agencies, June 22)
Whatever else, the VTsIOM poll clearly shows that Putin’s reputation among Muscovites has suffered as a result of the Gusinsky affair. On the other hand, the real surprise may be that a quarter of Muscovites declared themselves “satisfied” by Gusinsky’s arrest, given the Russian capital is one of the most liberal regions of the country, providing the bulk of the readership and viewership for Media-Most’s outlets, and is run by a long-time ally of Gusinsky, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Indeed, there is little doubt that pollsters would find a much higher level of support for both Gusinsky’s arrest and Putin’s perceived hostility to the oligarchs in almost any other Russian region.
NEW TRENDS AT THE SUMMIT.