Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 216

The Prosecutor General’s Office announced today that it had canceled the decision it made earlier this year to drop charges against Media-Most chief Vladimir Gusinsky in connection with the so-called Russkoye Video case. According to those charges, Gusinsky had allegedly embezzled at least US$10 million from the St. Petersburg firm Russkoye Video while it was being privatized. Gusinsky was arrested and jailed briefly in June of this year in connection with the case. The Prosecutor General’s Office dropped the charges against him the following month (see the Monitor, July 28). The office said today that the decision to revive this case against Gusinsky was on the basis of the investigation having been closed down prematurely (Russian agencies, November 17).

The decision followed another one earlier this week to issue an arrest warrant for Gusinsky, who has spent most of his time outside of Russia since his imprisonment in June. The warrant was pursuant to another criminal investigation, in which Gusinsky is accused of large-scale fraud in connection with Media-Most’s debt of more than US$400 million to Gazprom, the natural gas monopoly. Following the arrest order, Gusinsky was put on Russia’s wanted list (see the Monitor, November 13). The revival of the Russkoye Video case can be seen as another sign of the authorities’ determination to neutralize Gusinsky.

Media-Most reacted to news of the case’s revival with a statement to the press. The media holding declared that it would seek to get a “real juridical assessment” of the “arbitrary” activities of the Prosecutor General’s Office, and said it would not rule out an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. It said it was not surprised by the decision to revive the case, and accused the Prosecutor General’s Office of seeking to “pile up as many loud accusations against V. Gusinsky and the other heads of Media-Most, no matter how absurd they are,” as a way to mask the “openly rigged, illegal nature of their actions.” Media-Most, which has asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to open criminal investigations against Deputy Prosecutor General Vasily Kolmogorov and Valery Nikolaev, an investigator, accused the office of trying to “shield” its employees from criminal prosecution. It also charged that many high-level state officials, including officials in the Prosecutor General’s Office were seeking to discredit Gusinsky at home and abroad and either to jail him or prevent him from returning to Russia (Russian agencies, November 17).