Media Putsch Leaves Putin's Popularity Unscathed

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Last Wednesday was deliverance day for Vladimir Gusinsky. When a Madrid court turned down Russia's request to extradite the 48-year-old media magnate on fraud charges — ending his 10-month tussle with Kremlin prosecutors — Gusinsky savored his redemption. Fielding congratulatory calls on three phones at his villa in Sotogrande, he told one well-wisher, "This isn't the end of anything. It's the beginning."

But of what? Even as he basked poolside, Gusinsky knew that the few remaining properties in his once-sprawling Media-Most empire were being liquidated, part of an assault on Russia's independent press carried out by the state-controlled conglomerate Gazprom, but indisputably coordinated in the highest reaches of Vladimir Putin's government. Journalists at Gusinsky's daily newspaper Segodnya and the weekly magazine Itogi received their walking papers Tuesday, and at week's end the embattled entrepreneur announced plans to sell his 49.5 percent stake in NTV, the nationwide TV network he founded in October 1993 that was independent until the week before. Deliverance, Gusinsky swiftly realized, has a price. Full Story...