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Fresh arrest warrant issued for Russian tycoon

MOSCOW, Russia -- An international arrest warrant has been issued for exiled media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky, the Russian chief prosecutor's office said on Monday.

Gusinsky, owner of Russia's largest independent countrywide media group, Media-Most, is charged with fraud allegations.

He failed to turn up for questioning by a prosecutor last month, and the international arrest warrant has been in effect since November 20, prosecution investigator Valery Nikolayev was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

A countrywide warrant had already been issued.

The charges against Gusinsky, who was jailed for three days earlier this year, have sparked fears of a crackdown on a free press in Russia.

Media-Most's flagship, NTV television, has frequently been critical of Kremlin policy.

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After his brief detention in Moscow's notorious Butyrskaya prison earlier this year, Gusinsky was released and allowed to go overseas.

A deal was announced to settle some of Media-Most's debts but Gusinsky repudiated it, saying he had signed it under duress.

A subsequent deal, clinched last month, involved the sale of shares to the media arm of the state-dominated gas giant Gazprom to clear $211 million in debt.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to deal with alleged illegal activities of "oligarchs" like Gusinsky who made fortunes in the years following the collapse of Soviet rule.

A second media magnate, Boris Berezovsky, also remains overseas, refusing to appear for questioning before a Moscow prosecutor in connection with a case relating to the state airline Aeroflot.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
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Exiled media baron accuses Putin of fraud
November 16, 2000
Putin flexes his muscles
November 16, 2000
Russian media moguls defy courts
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RELATED SITES:
The Government of the Russian Federation
Media Most (in Russian)
Russian Public Television - ORT (in Russian)

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