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Russia: Businessman To Be Charged With Kidnappings

St. Petersburg, 24 January 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian prosecutors say they have proof that businessman Mikhail Mirilashvili, arrested yesterday in St. Petersburg, ordered the kidnapping of two people. Prosecutor Ivan Sydoruk said Mirashvili's arrest has "nothing to do" with the investigation into the Media-MOST group of Vladimir Gusinsky. He also said it has nothing to do with Mirilashvili's ties to Russia's Jewish Congress. Sydoruk told reporters that formal charges against Mirilashvili will be filed within 10 days: "The prosecutor's office of the city of St. Petersburg has opened criminal proceedings concerning the kidnapping of two people. We have proof that Mirilashvili, Mikhail Mikhailovich, organized the kidnapping of these persons."

Mirilashvili is the director of a St. Petersburg-based television production company Russkoye Video and the vice president of Russia's Jewish Congress.

Gusinsky -- president of the Jewish Congress and owner of Media-MOST group -- recently bought Russkoye Video, but later sold the company.

Separately, a team of investigators from the Russian Prosecutor-General's office conducted another search at the headquarters of the embattled Media-MOST company in Moscow today.

The media group's lawyer, Pavel Astakhov, said four investigators accompanied by 16 FSB agents have been searching and confiscating financial documents.

Russian Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov said yesterday that the fraud probe into media magnate Gusinsky is widening.

Ustinov also said he is confident Gusinsky will be extradited soon from Spain. He said documents to be given to Spanish officials will show Gusinsky guilty of committing fraud and theft.

Today's search comes as Freimut Duve, the visiting media representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said in Moscow today that he hoped the case would spur greater public debate in Russia about government pressure on the media. Duve said efforts to prosecute Media-MOST executives appeared to be "selective," only targeting government critics.