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Russia: Putin Calls Gusinsky Arrest 'Excessive'

Berlin, 15 June 2000 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Vladimir Putin today criticized this week's arrest of Russia's leading independent media magnate, Vladimir Gusinsky, as "excessive." Speaking today in Berlin, Putin said that the Prosecutor-General's office could question him if it wanted to without jailing him. Earlier today, Gusinsky said his arrest was part of a political intrigue by the authorities to muzzle press freedom. Gusinsky was arrested two days ago and accused of defrauding the state of $10 million. His Media-Most company controls television, radio, and print outlets which have criticized the government and Putin.

International protests grew today over Gusinsky's arrest. The Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have expressed concern that the arrest is linked to Gusinsky's press activities.

Israel asked Russian officials to reconsider the arrest. Gusinsky holds dual Russian-Israeli nationality.