As expected, Moscow’s Higher Arbitration Court ruled in favor of Lukoil’s petition to force the liquidation of TV-6, the last multi-regional independent television station in Russia. Lukoil, which owns 15 percent of TV-6, claimed the station was irredeemably mismanaged. Liberal figures like Grigory Yavlinsky and Boris Nemtsov, head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces, said the ruling is a blow to free speech that exposes the judiciary as a tool of executive power…. Prosecutors arrested the three top officials of a petrochemical subsidiary of energy giant Gazprom, after an inventory of assets at Gazprom showed that Sibur and other affiliates illegally sold off some 2.6 billion rubles ($86 million) of Gazprom assets. One of those arrested had been the deputy to former Gazprom chairman Rem Vyakhirev, who has been questioned in the affair…. Just before last Sunday’s presidential elections in Sakha-Yakutia (see Russia’s Week, November 26, 2001), incumbent President Mikhail Nikolaev and Kremlin favorite Vasily Kolmogorov withdrew. The default candidate and apparent winner was Nikolaev’s protege Vyacheslav Shtyrov, head of the Alrosa diamond enterprise, whose candidacy had been tossed out by the Sakha Supreme Court but reinstated by the federal Supreme Court. Polling places were turned into cut-rate shops to lure enough people out in 50-below weather to meet minimum-turnout rules. Sakha is nine times the size of Texas with fewer people than Dallas, and final results may not be known for a while.