The beleaguered founder and head of the Media-Most holding, Vladimir Gusinsky, signaled this past week that his battle with the Kremlin might be approaching its endgame. Gusinsky, who remains under house arrest in Spain while awaiting possible extradition to Russian on fraud charges, sounded increasingly desperate and gloomy in several interviews with Western media. The authorities, he told the French newspaper Liberation, were close to achieving their goal of destroying NTV, Media-Most’s flagship television channel. The embattled media mogul contended that Russia was well on its way to becoming a totalitarian state once again–this time with a nationalist rather than a communist ideology–charging that the treatment of Chechens at the hands of the Russian military was “practically genocide.”

But Gusinsky’s defiant criticism of Kremlin policy now appeared to be what one observer called “covering fire” for a strategic retreat. Indeed, in what sounded suspiciously like valedictory remarks, Gusinsky said he held out hope that investment in Media-Most by the Western consortium headed by CNN founder Ted Turner would be able to ensure NTV’s independence, which Turner had publicly promised to safeguard. Gusinsky also said he was ready to sell of his own shares of NTV if the authorities made that a condition for the Turner consortium’s investment in Media-Most. Yet while professing that he had faith in the “professionalism” of CNN’s founder, Gusinsky also warned of the Russian authorities’ “Asiatic” methods. Meaning, as he put it, that they often said one thing while thinking another and doing a third, and therefore were entirely capable of “welcoming” Turner’s consortium while simultaneously “finishing off” NTV.

Gusinsky’s pessimism may have been stoked by media reports that a majority of the members in Turner’s consortium, including the financier George Soros, had decided that Gusinsky should retain no links with NTV. At the same time, among the consortium’s representatives who met February 15 with officials of Gazprom, the state-controlled natural gas monopoly that is Media-Most’s main creditor and one of its main nemeses, was Grigory Berezkin, a Russian oil baron with close connections to two powerful Kremlin insiders–Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich and Moscow banker Aleksandr Mamut. Berezkin’s involvement–according to one report, he is not only a financial participant in the consortium, but one of its main organizers–suggested that the Kremlin might end up with significant or even decisive control over Media-Most and NTV, regardless of what Turner and his fellow investors intend. Thus Gusinsky could be forgiven for feeling more and more like a victim of hostile encirclement, with no clear route of escape.