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Russia: Gusinsky Takes Refuge In Israel

Gibraltar, 25 April 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky says his fight with the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin is "unfortunately not finished." He made the remark last night in Gibraltar before leaving in a private jet for Israel. Gusinsky has dual citizenship in Russia and Israel. Gusinsky's Spanish defense lawyer Domingo Plazas said yesterday it would be "extremely difficult" for Gusinsky to be extradited from Israel to Russia. Plazas said Gusinsky left for Israel because "he has full confidence in the Israeli government." Last week, Spain's supreme court turned down an extradition request from Moscow for him to face fraud charges.

Russian prosecutors said yesterday they had issued a new warrant for Gusinsky to be arrested in Spain and extradited on charges of laundering more than $97 million. Gusinsky called the charges "typically absurd."

Gusinsky had been in Gibraltar, the British territory which juts off southern Spain, since Monday, when Spanish judges lifted travel restrictions on him. His lawyer in Madrid said Gusinsky still had not been formally served the Russian warrant.

Gusinsky said yesterday that Russia is now "totalitarian." He said Putin "wants absolute power" and called him a "danger to Europe."

Gusinsky says the Russian charges are politically motivated. He has linked them to criticism of the Kremlin by his Media-MOST group. While he has been fighting extradition in Spain, Media-MOST has been largely dismantled, with Russia's state-controlled Gazprom seizing control of the NTV television station.