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Russia: Spanish Judges Rule Against Extraditing Gusinsky

Madrid, 18 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- A lawyer representing Vladimir Gusinsky says Spain's High Court has ruled against extraditing the media magnate to Russia where he is wanted on fraud charges. Defense lawyer Domingo Plazas did not give details of the ruling, but said the court would release the ruling later today.

Plazas also said Spanish prosecutors might appeal against the ruling on behalf of Russian authorities. Gusinsky was arrested last December on a warrant issued by Russia charging him with misrepresenting the assets of his Media-MOST holding company to obtain loan guarantees from the state-owned natural gas conglomerate Gazprom. He was released from jail in Madrid at the end of March, but has been held under house arrest in his home in the Cadiz province.

Gusinsky has said the charges against him are politically motivated due to Media-MOST's criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The natural gas company took control of NTV last week and then appointed banker Boris Jordan as chief.

Former NTV employees and its supporters say the takeover was a Kremlin-orchestrated assault against critical media. Gazprom claimed that the move was motivated by the need to cut NTV's losses and recover debts.

Jordan says the embattled network is "on a fast and sure road to bankruptcy."

In a commentary in today's edition of "The Wall Street Journal," Jordan says NTV stands no chance of surviving unless a "viable business model is put in place."

He accuses the journalists who formerly ran NTV of trying to cover up and perpetuate the waste of shareholder assets.

Jordan also says it is not in the interests of NTV to be dominated by any single group of shareholders; and that he favors both natural gas conglomerate Gazprom and NTV's founder, Vladimir Gusinsky reducing their stakes to accommodate an independent international strategic investor.

Managers at Russia's privately-owned TV6 television network announced plans to resign today, shortly after journalists from NTV were hired following its takeover by Gazprom.

Former presidential aide Igor Shabdurasulov did not explain why he decided to leave his position as chairman of the board of directors of TV6.

His decision came after TV6 owner Boris Berezovsky agreed to hire former NTV journalists, including chief editor Yevgeny Kiselyov.

Shabdurasulov says TV6 Executive Director Aleksandr Ponomaryov and board member Ruslan Fomichev are also planning to quit.