MOSCOW — Russia’s former media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky was released on bail from a Greek jail Friday after posting a bond of €100,000 ($109,820). He must remain at an Athens hotel pending extradition proceedings to Russia.
Gusinsky, who controlled Russia’s independent TV channel NTV until a hostile management takeover in April 2001, was arrested at Athens airport Aug. 21 on suspicion of a $250 million fraud.
Russia’s public prosecution office, on whose instruction Gusinsky’s name remained on the international wanted list, has yet to send the documentation to Athens to pursue the matter.
Gusinsky was released by a Madrid court in April 2001 after a stand-off with Russian authorities on similar charges.
Spanish judges finally ruled that the charges of embezzlement were politically motivated — Gusinsky’s Media-Most news outlets often opposed President Vladimir Putin’s administration.
The speed with which this latest bail was granted — Gusinsky could have been detained for up to 45 days — as well as the fact that he is being represented by Greece’s top lawyer, the politically connected Alexandros Likurezos, has convinced Moscow observers that he will win court hearings in a judgment that could damage the prestige of Russia’s Ministry of Justice.
Gusinsky’s lone media holding left in Russia is Ekho-TV, a Russian-language satellite channel that until now has broadcast to diaspora communities in Europe and the U.S..
Ekho-TV’s topper, former NTV staffer Andrei Norkin, said Friday that recent actions were an attempt to limit freedom of speech in advance of parliamentary and presidential elections.
Norkin added that the station was receiving increasing interest from local channels in Russia for retransmission rights.
Only days before Gusinsky’s arrest, two popular figures well known from NTV, satirist Victor Shenderovich and news commentator Vladimir Kara-Muza, announced that they would join Ekho-TV.