The government seems closer to taking control of both Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media Most group, which has been highly critical of the Kremlin, and Boris Berezovsky’s ORT Television, which has been slavishly supportive. The Media Most group is in negotiations to transfer a controlling interest to Gazprom, the natural-gas monopoly that is Russia’s largest enterprise. Gazprom, in which the state holds a 38 percent share, already owns 14 percent of Media Most and has a claim on additional shares pledged to it as collateral for loans that Media Most probably cannot repay.

Ownership of ORT is unclear. The Russian state is said to own 51 percent, with 49 percent belonging to companies controlled directly or indirectly by oligarch Boris Berezovsky. But ORT owes the government US$150 million, which according to the Ministry of Press Affairs is about half the company’s equity–in other words, Berezovsky’s share–and there are rumors that the government is pushing Berezovsky to redeem the debt. For now, however, Berezovsky seems fully in charge. After adding his daughter to the board of directors in June, he controls seven of eleven seats.