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Did Russian Jewish leader sell out?
Russian Jews speculate whether leader sold out to Russian president
By LEV GORDETSKY
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
August 1, 2000
Jewish leader Vladimir Goussinsky is safe and in Spain with
his family--but speculation is rife over what prompted the
Russian authorities to unexpectedly drop the charges against
the media mogul.
of the speculation focuses over whether Goussinsky made any
agreements that prodded the authorities to end its
two-month-long campaign of harassment, which landed the
president of the Russian Jewish Congress in jail for a few
days in June on charges of embezzlement.
despite Goussinsky’s release, Putin appears to be continuing
what appears to be his divide-and-conquer strategy regarding
the Jewish community by boosting a rival Jewish group, the
Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, at the RJC’s
silence of Goussinsky and his closest aide, Igor Malashenko,
who flew with him to Spain, is leading many observers to
suggest that Goussinsky traded the editorial independence of
his national television channel NTV for his personal freedom.
that Russian President Vladimir Putin was willing to end the
campaign against Goussinsky in exchange for control over NTV
have been circulating in Moscow ever since the campaign
against Goussinsky began in May.
and his administration are angry over NTV’s open support of
liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky, one of Putin’s rivals in
his run for the presidency earlier this year, and over the
opposition of Goussinsky and NTV to Russia’s war in
is possible that Goussinsky’s media empire, Media-Most, will
be sold to Russia’s national gas monopoly, Gazprom, in the
near future, said Igor Shabdurasulov, who recently left a
high-ranking administration position to head the empire of
Goussinsky’s media rival, Boris Berezovsky.
a sale “is the same as selling Media-Most to the state,”
move could be Gazprom’s way of collecting on a $200 million
loan to Goussinsky that he has not repaid.
can’t feed on the state and fight it at the same time,”
said Berezovsky, who controls the state-owned national TV
channel ORT and who was until recently a Kremlin insider.
addition to Gazprom’s financial help, NTV has enjoyed
discounts on its transmission costs that are usually only
granted to state-owned channels.
which holds more than 40 percent of Media-Most stock, has kept
silent on a possible deal, as has Putin’s administration.
Such an explanation flies in the face of Goussinsky’s image
as a political gadfly and street fighter.
sense is that he’s going to continue” to criticize the
government if he thinks it is justified,” said Mark Levin,
executive director of NCSJ: Advocates on Behalf of Jews in
Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States & Eurasia.
and other U.S. advocates for Jews from the former Soviet Union
credit the international pressure that was brought to bear on
Russia for the charges being dropped.
is “very appreciative of all the support he’s gotten from
the American and Israeli governments and the American Jewish
community,” said Levin, who spoke with Goussinsky soon after
members of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to President
Clinton to press Russia to “formally justify”
Naftalin, of the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews, said
Clinton administration officials told him the president would
bring up Goussinsky’s arrest when he met with Putin at the
G-8 summit in Japan earlier this month.
Botchkaryov, governor of the Penza region, who supported the
action against Goussinsky, agrees that international pressure
spurred the Russian Jewish leader’s release.
one Russian Jewish official disagrees.
Krichevsky, the head of the Anti-Defamation League’s office
in Moscow, believes Goussinsky’s release more likely
resulted from internal Kremlin politics.
has recently consolidated his power by limiting the reach of
Russia’s regional governors--and of Goussinsky and his
fellow oligarchs, a shadowy group of big businessman.
surprisingly, Goussinsky was not invited to Putin’s meeting
last Friday with 21 of these oligarchs, where Putin announced,
to the great relief of all present, that the state would not
revisit post-Soviet privatization deals that allowed these men
to accumulate their wealth.
Berezovsky was also not invited to the meeting prompted
speculation that he, too was falling out of favor with Putin.
this means for the future of Russian Jewry is also uncertain.
Since Putin took power last year, he appears to have anointed
the Lubavitch-dominated Federation of Jewish Communities of
Russia as the representative of Russia’s roughly 600,000
observers believe that the federation and its leader, Rabbi
Berel Lazar, are benefitting at the expense of Goussinsky, the
Russian Jewish Congress and the country’s longtime chief
rabbi, Adolph Shayevich.
June, for example, a group of federation leaders elected Lazar
to be the country’s chief rabbi under shadowy circumstances.
in September, the federation is planning to inaugurate its
community center in Moscow and has reportedly invited Putin to
attend the ceremony.
Russian Jewish Congress, meanwhile, has planned to lay the
cornerstone for its community center the same month.
Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.