The “information wars” in Russia are continuing (see the Monitor, July 16, 19), with media belonging to Vladimir Gusinsky’s Most Media group reporting that the offices of the group’s publishing house, Seven Days, received a visit yesterday from the tax police. According to the reports, the tax police officers were interested in looking at Seven Days’ books to determine the publishing house’s profits in 1997 and 1998 (NTV, July 19; Segodnya, July 20). The Seven Days publishing house includes the newspapers “Seven Days” and “Segodnya” and the magazines “Karavan” and “Itogi.” “Segodnya” noted today that the tax police visit followed by a day a segment on NTV’s weekly news program, also called Itogi, which strongly criticized Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin (Segodnya, July 20). The Itogi segment alleged that Voloshin had been involved in two business projects–the All Russian Automobile Alliance (AVVA) and Chara bank–which ended up being criminally investigated as pyramid schemes (NTV, July 18; see the Monitor, July 19).
Yesterday’s raids suggest that the media war–pitting Most-Media’s Gusinsky against the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, on one level, and the Kremlin against Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, on another–is not going to die down any time soon.
Some politicians, meanwhile, did their best to distance themselves. Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who said he watched television Sunday night, charged that the channels “do nothing but attack each other” while ignoring important events, “as if there are no problems other than their own in the country.” Valentina Matvienko, deputy prime minister for social issues and a holdover from the cabinet of Yevgeny Primakov, warned that the battle between NTV and Russian Public Television (ORT), a channel reportedly controlled by Boris Berezovsky, could harm the country in an election year (Russian agencies, July 20). Former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who was recently named chairman of the board of the Gazprom natural gas monopoly and who heads the Russia is Our Home movement, was less diplomatic–or politically correct–about the Gusinsky-Berezovsky battle: “Two Jews get into a fight, and the whole country has to watch the farce” (NTV, July 19).
Meanwhile, “Nezavisimaya gazeta,” a newspaper which Berezovsky reportedly controls, led today’s edition with an attack on Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, charging that Luzhkov was trying to benefit politically from the scandal surrounding the Federal Security Service’s investigation of a company run by his wife, Yelena Baturina, as part of a larger probe into illegal capital flight (see the Monitor, July 19). The newspaper said that Luzhkov, who over the weekend charged that the Kremlin and security services are abusing their powers and represent a threat to democracy, was trying to cultivate the image of a martyr in the fight against the authorities, similar to that of Boris Yeltsin ten years ago. The paper said, however, that Luzhkov–who is widely viewed as the Kremlin’s main rival in next year’s presidential elections–will have a difficult time convincing voters of his opposition to the current system, because he himself rose from the “very depths of the existing regime” and was one of its main sources of support in recent years (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 20).
PRIMAKOV TURNS DOWN CALL TO RUN FOR SVERDLOVSK GOVERNORSHIP.