Cultural Revolutions

Long Arm of the Law

Vladimir Gusinsky, the Russian media magnate, has escaped the long arm of the law. The Russian General Prosecutor's Office dropped charges of illegal privatization of state enterprises against the Kremlin's chief nemesis, rescinding the freeze on his property and lifting a ban on foreign travel. Gusinsky promptly headed for his home in Spain. His NTV network was uncharacteristically restrained in its coverage of what should have been a triumphant moment. For months, the Kremlin had wielded its nightstick against the oligarch's Media Most company: Gusinsky had made the serious mistake of supporting the "Fatherland" bloc against the Kremlin-backed "Unity" movement in parliamentary elections last fall. Moreover, Gusinsky had seriously misread the mood of Russian society: Both the general public and Russia's elites took a dim view of his media's criticisms of the Chechen campaign and its portrayal of President Vladimir Putin as a clumsy policeman with a Napoleon complex.

Rumors that Gusinsky had cut a deal with the Kremlin soon appeared in the Russian press. Some Kremlin sources have claimed that Gusinsky was allowed to leave the country only after he promised to toe the Kremlin "information line." This is certainly plausible; Putin's henchmen in the "power structures"—the police and security apparatus—have been pressuring journalists to jump aboard the "patriotic"...

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