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Gusinsky free to leave Spain

Gusinsky granted freedom of movement  

MADRID, Spain -- Travel restrictions on Russian media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky have been lifted after Russian attempts to have him extradited failed.

"All the measures have been lifted, which means Mr. Gusinsky is totally free," defence lawyer Domingo Plazas told the Reuters news agency.

Plazas said Gusinsky -- wanted in Russia on fraud charges which his supporters say are politically motivated -- is expect to leave for Israel on Tuesday.

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Since his arrest on an international warrant in December, Gusinsky -- who holds dual Israeli-Russian citizenship -- has spent most of his time under guard at his villa in Sotogrande, near the city of Cadiz.

On Wednesday, Spain's High Court turned down Russia's request for Spain to hand over the businessman, saying the alleged fraud offences did not represent a crime in Spain.

A three-day deadline to appeal against the decision expired on Saturday.

Russian authorities say Gusinsky overstated the assets of his Media-Most media empire to win $300 million in loan guarantees.

Gusinsky, who insists that the loan has been fully repaid, says the allegations are a Kremlin-inspired move to silence his media outlets, which have been critical of president Vladimir Putin and the war in Chechnya.

In its decision Spain's High Court noted "peculiar circumstances" in evidence provided by Gusinsky's defence which did not prove the case was political but suggested his arguments were "not completely lacking in substance."

During Gusinsky's extradition battle his Media-Most empire has crumbled with state-controlled Russian gas group Gazprom seizing control of its flagship television station NTV, a newspaper closed and editorial staff at a political magazine fired.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Jill Dougherty after extradition moves failed Gusinsky laid the blame for the NTV takeover directly at Putin's door.

"The government is in a dilemma. They have to decide the problem of Chechnya. They have to decide the problem of heat, pensions, crime, and corruption.

"It is much easier to unplug NTV and then there won't be any problems."

Russian prosecutors have said they will continue to seek Gusinsky's detention in other countries.

Profile: Vladimir Gusinsky
April 10, 2001
Fear amid Gusinsky's media empire
April 17, 2001
Ex-NTV staff vow to set up rival
April 14, 2001

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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