YOU’VE GOT BLACKMAIL:
There is no truce in the media war between the Kremlin forces of tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the power behind ORT television, and Vladimir Gusinsky’s MOST group, which includes NTV television. Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin accuses MOST of “political racketeering,” running a smear campaign against state officials that dare to deny MOST new subsidies or to collect on old loans. Tax authorities are looking into MOST’s returns. The MOST folks say the Kremlin is putting pressure on gas monopoly Gazprom, which owns 49 percent of NTV, to call in loans it has made to NTV and other MOST properties…. Behind the conflict is a struggle for media backing in the next presidential race, now less than a year away. Gusinsky is close to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. The Kremlin’s candidate is not yet known, but Berezovsky bankrolled General Aleksandr Lebed’s successful campaign for the governorship in Krasnoyarsk last year. General Lebed, tough-talking paratrooper who fits the strongman mold, was hugely popular after he cut a deal to end the war in Chechnya and got fired by Boris Yeltsin in 1996. He could return to the national stage in the year 2000.