Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 232

Media-Most officials and supporters of Gusinsky, of course, denounced his arrest. Dmitry Ostalsky, a spokesman for the holding, accused Ustinov of “disinforming” the Spanish law enforcement authorities by sending them “completely false” material concerning “the so-called Gusinsky case.” Igor Malashenko, deputy chairman of Media-Most’s board of directors, made similar charges. In an interview today with Radio Ekho Moskvy (part of Media-Most), Malashenko accused the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office and the Russian bureau of Interpol of having “openly abused Russia’s rights and resources in the international system of [law enforcement] cooperation” by giving Spanish authorities “distorted and obviously false” information on Gusinsky. Malashenko also accused the Russian side of having hidden the fact that Gazprom and Media-Most had signed an agreement on settling the dispute over Media-Most’s debts. Calling the charges against Gusinsky “absolutely political,” Malashenko said that Media-Most would soon present the Spanish authorities with documents contradicting the Russian prosecutors’ claims. Indeed, one of Gusinsky’s lawyers, Pavel Astakhov, said that such documents had already been sent to Spain.

The World Jewish Congress condemned Gusinsky’s detention, calling it the result of political persecution by the Russian authorities. Gusinsky heads the congress’s Russian branch, the Russian Jewish Congress. Likewise, an unnamed official of the U.S. State Department was quoted as saying that Gusinsky’s arrest was the result of a campaign against him by the Russian government and warned that this campaign was threatening the independence of Russia’s mass media. The European Parliament’s working group on human rights wrote a letter to Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble asking him to examine the Gusinsky case closely to determine whether political motives are involved.

Despite Gusinsky’s problems with the law and Media-Most’s problems with its debts, the media holding’s outlets have continued to criticize President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. This past weekend, for example, Yevgeny Kiselev, host of Itogi, NTV television’s Sunday evening political analysis program, condemned Putin for having revived the music of the Stalin-era Soviet anthem as Russia’s new national anthem (NTV, December 10). Kiselev was questioned by prosecutors last month as a part of their investigation into alleged illegal eavesdropping by Gusinsky’s Most Security Service, and it would not be at all surprising if he were invited back for more questioning in connection with that or some other case (see the Monitor, November 20). Meanwhile, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced today that it was closing its investigation into the Mabetex affair–which involved allegations that several Swiss construction/engineering firms paid kickbacks to top Russian officials, including former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin–in exchange for lucrative contract to refurbish Russian government buildings. Ruslan Tamaev, the lead investigator in the Mabetex case, said the case was being dropped due to a lack of evidence. Tamaev was recently made deputy head of the Prosecutor General’s Office’s department for high-profile cases (Russian agencies, NTV, Reuters, Agence France Presse, December 12-13; Radio Ekho Moskvy, December 13).