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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Denies Suppressing Media Freedom

President Vladimir Putin rejected accusations that his government was trying to limit media freedoms, saying that criticism of his policies was proof of free speech, according to comments released Thursday.

The owner of Russia's largest independent media holding Media-Most, Vladimir Gusinsky, has been charged with financial crimes, in what the company insists was punishment for critical reporting.

Putin dismissed the allegations, saying that protests by media and business moguls were a result of their unwillingness to obey Russian laws after years of legal chaos under ex-President Boris Yeltsin.

"Apparently, some people don't like the fact that they have lost the unique status they previously had in Russia, or that they are losing their privileged status," Putin said in an interview with Russian and Canadian television journalists that was released by the Kremlin on Thursday.

"If somebody doesn't like this state of affairs, if somebody is used to anarchy, then I'm sorry, but they'll have to accept the rules that have been proposed by society," Putin said. He spoke earlier this week, before departing on a visit to Cuba and Canada.

Gusinsky, the Media-Most chief, is one of so-called oligarchs - business moguls who used their political connections during the Yeltsin era to acquire fortunes in dubious privatization deals.

Some of them have lost their political connections since Putin came to power and have turned to harsh criticism of the Kremlin, accusing it of attempts to suppress freedom of speech and independent news media.

"I don't see any restrictions because those who complain about various restrictions continue to criticize the president and the government in the harshest manner," Putin said. "And that's the main indicator ... that the government is not restricting the press in any way."