Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 145

The propaganda war between the Media Most group and the Kremlin has again flared up in a big way and, for the first time, President Boris Yeltsin appears to have gotten directly involved. Yesterday Yeltsin cut short his vacation and returned to the Kremlin. While the official explanation for his return was that weather was too hot to enjoy the break, most media observers speculated that he returned to the Kremlin because of the increasingly intense conflict between his administration and the Media Most group, which is headed by Vladimir Gusinsky and includes NTV television. The Kremlin is reportedly angry with Most because of its alleged sympathy toward Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

Yeltsin met yesterday with Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, who has been the primary object of attack by Most and other media generally supportive of Luzhkov. On July 23, the editors from NTV and other Most holdings–including Ekho Moskvy radio and “Segodnya”–published an open letter to Yeltsin charging that Voloshin was trying to intimidate them by launching a tax police into Most’s finances. The Most editors called Voloshin’s actions “a deep and open attack on one of the main triumphs of Russian democracy: freedom of speech” (Russian agencies, July 23; Segodnya, July 24). Yesterday, Voloshin reportedly showed Yeltsin the open letter from Most, and, following his meeting with Yeltsin, gave an interview in which he claimed that the president was “alarmed by the continuing pressure on the government by such an influential and respected channel as the NTV broadcast company and other media controlled by the Media Most holding.” Voloshin claimed that Media Most has received more financial “aid” from the government than all state media taken together, and accused the holding of conducting an “information racket” to extort money from the state (Russian agencies, July 27; Vremya MN, July 28). Later yesterday, Media Most’s top editors again responded, in a statement delivered on NTV, which accused Voloshin of lying and added: “Media Most has never received financial help from the government. Mr. Voloshin is using methods of political racketeering and blackmail” (NTV, July 27). The editors are scheduled to hold a press conference late today.