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Police raid Russian media firm, take files

SHARE Police raid Russian media firm, take files

MOSCOW — Officials on Tuesday raided the offices of a media company that has been critical of the Kremlin and carted away financial and personnel files, the company said.

Police and security services also conducted searches at the NTV television network owned by Media-Most and at the Gazprom state gas monopoly, which owns part of the television station, news reports said.

The raid on Media-Most was the second in three months, and it followed the arrest last month of owner Vladimir Gusinsky.

Gusinsky was jailed for four days and charged with defrauding the government in a privatization deal.

His detention prompted an international outcry, as it was seen as punishment for his media's criticism of President Vladimir Putin. The government has been increasingly hostile to critical press, which is being harshly denounced for its unpatriotic views.

Investigators on Tuesday were seizing all financial documents and the personal files of Media-Most's leadership, said the holding's lawyer Pavel Astakhov.

"There is only one goal — to paralyze the activity of Media-Most and the mass media that is part of the holding," Astakhov told reporters.

He said police had a blanket search warrant related to a case against another company in the media holding.

Investigators said they needed the documents to look into the two-year-old privatization of a company called Russian Video, the Interfax news agency reported. Gusinsky is accused of defrauding government of $10 million through the privatization deal.

NTV television reported that its offices were also raided Tuesday in connection with the Media-Most investigation.

It was unclear what police were searching for at Gazprom, where Interfax reported another police raid. The gas giant owns about 30 percent of Media-Most's NTV television network and holds 17 percent to 20 percent more of the company's stock as collateral for a bad loan.

Meanwhile, a Moscow court rejected an appeal Tuesday by Gusinsky's lawyers that the arrest was illegal because he qualified for amnesty for holders of state medals and orders.

Judges ruled the complaint was pointless because he was eventually released, said Genri Reznik, Gusinsky's lawyer.

Reznik accused Russia's courts of covering up for what he called constant legal violations by law enforcement agencies.