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Russia issues new Gusinsky warrant

Gusinsky
Gusinsky says charges against him are politically motivated  

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russian prosecutors have sent a new extradition warrant to Interpol in a renewed effort to bring media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky to trial.

They said Gusinsky would have to "run like a hare" to avoid extradition on new money laundering charges.

The warrant charges the tycoon with laundering 2.8 billion roubles ($97 million). It summoned Gusinsky on Friday to formally present the new charges.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said: "We want him to face a Russian court."

Gusinsky has arrived in Israel after leaving Spain where courts rejected a Russian extradition request.

A dual Russian-Israeli citizen, Gusinsky flew in from the British colony of Gibraltar on board a hired executive jet .

He declined to give details of his plans in Israel, and did not say how long he intended to stay.

A justice ministry official said Israel and Russia were signatories to a pan-European agreement that made extradition possible.

But Gusinsky's Spanish defence lawyer, Domingo Plazas, said it would be "extremely difficult" for Gusinsky to be extradited to Russia from Israel, where immigrants from the former Soviet Union wield political clout.

"If he is going to Israel, it is because he has full confidence in the Israeli government," Plazas said.

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Prosecutor General's office spokesman Leonid Troshin said that prosecutors were not expecting Gusinsky to show up on Friday, but voiced confidence that the tycoon would be extradited.

"These are grave charges, and we have strong evidence," Troshin told The Associated Press. "No country welcomes money-laundering, and Gusinsky will now have to run like a hare."

Gusinsky has said his case was politically motivated, and he said it was evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to stifle media criticism of the Kremlin.

Gusinsky founded Russia's sole nationwide, independent network, NTV, the Itogi magazine, and the Segodnya newspaper -- all of which were taken over recently by the Kremlin-connected Gazprom state gas monopoly.

Gusinsky said he wouldn't return to Russia as long as Putin was in power.

Russia at first accused Gusinsky of misrepresenting the assets of his Media-Most holding company to obtain a $262 million loan from Gazprom, and the gas monopoly and the Kremlin have insisted that the case was based purely on financial considerations.

But a Spanish court last week refused Russia's request to extradite Gusinsky to face those charges, saying Russia's grounds for the case would not amount to a crime in Spain. Gusinsky travelled to Israel on Tuesday.

Plazas said there was no evidence supporting the new charge, calling it a manoeuvre aimed at restarting the earlier proceedings.

Troshin said it had taken a longer time for the prosecutors to prepare the money-laundering charges.

"We were collecting evidence, and couldn't do it faster," he said, refusing to give details.

Meanwhile, Russian military prosecutors searched the Moscow apartment of Valery Shiryayev, a deputy commercial director of the Novaya Gazeta newspaper, which has consistently criticised the government.

Chief Military Prosecutor Mikhail Kislitsyn said the search had nothing to do with the newspaper's activities and was related only to Shiryayev's past activities as a member of the Media-Most security service, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Kislitsyn said prosecutors were looking into allegations that Shiryayev, a retired officer of the Federal Security Service, the KGB's main successor, had divulged state secrets while working for Media-Most. Novaya Gazeta would not make any immediate comment.

Gusinsky was until recently the leader of Russia's Jewish Congress and is vice-president of a worldwide Jewish group.

U.S. Jewish organisations had urged Spain not to extradite him to Russia and were likely to oppose any Israeli move to do so.



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