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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

International Search For Gusinsky Begins

Russian authorities have asked Interpol to put Vladimir Gusinsky on an international wanted list on fraud charges, increasing the pressure on the media magnate, officials said Monday.

The prosecutor-general's office had previously put Gusinsky on a domestic search list after he refused to show up for questioning last month. But since Gusinsky has remained abroad, prosecutors have initiated an international search through Interpol, said Yuri Vasilchenko, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General.

Vasilchenko said that the Russian authorities had initiated the search two weeks ago.

?I can't say whether it has actually begun, because the move requires some paperwork,? he said in a telephone interview.

Officials at Interpol's Moscow office refused to comment. Prosecutors accuse Gusinsky of having misrepresented assets in his Media-Most group when he accepted loans of more than $300 million that were guaranteed by Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom. They say that Gusinsky's companies were legally bankrupt at the time.

Gusinsky has rejected the allegations, describing them as a Kremlin attempt to punish him for criticism of the government in his media outlets.

Gusinsky is one of Russia's so-called oligarchs, moguls who used their ties with the Kremlin to amass quick fortunes in suspicious privatization deals in the 1990s. After Gusinsky fell out with the Kremlin last year, his flagship NTV television and other news outlets have run exposes on official corruption and incompetence.

Media-Most spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky said that Gusinsky was dividing his time between Great Britain, Gibraltar, Israel and Spain, always keeping his whereabouts known. Gusinsky will declare himself a victim of political repression if he faces extradition, Ostalsky told The Associated Press.

?The issue will be decided in court, and there is no doubt that it will rule in Mr. Gusinsky's favour because the Prosecutor General's office would be unable to susbtantiate its charges,? Ostalsky said. ?The prosecutors will simply discredit themselves and the Russian legal system as a whole.?

Ostalsky described the prosecutors' move as a ?scare action? and suggested it could be triggered by new reports on NTV that have ben critical of the government. ?Prosecutors also might have decided to launch a pre-emptive action after they had become aware of Mr. Gusinsky's plans to sue them for illegal persecution,? he said.

Last month, Gazprom reached an agreement with Media-Most to obtain a large portion of NTV shares to cover the debt, but prosecutors have pressed the charges anyway.