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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

World View

While President Vladimir Putin is traveling through Europe this week extolling the virtues of Russian democracy, his Kremlin colleagues have been acting like Stalinists. The arrest and detention of Vladimir Gusinsky is an assault against the principle of a free press. Whatever the merits of the alleged embezzlement case against Gusinsky, there was no need to haul him off to prison, an action that cannot help but stir fear in anation all too familiar with the arbitrary exercise of state power.

If the rule of law prevailed in Russia, and Gusinsky could count on a presumption of innocence, quick release on bail and a fair trial, his arrest might seem less ominous. But Russia lacks a fully independent judicial system, and the government still uses criminal prosecution as a political weapon. He is charged with embezzling at least $10 million in federal property, apparently involving his purchase of a state-owned television station in St. Petersburg. He says the accusations are false.

Putin seemed surprised by the arrest. That offers little comfort to anyone concerned about Russia's fragile freedoms. If the arrest was meant to embarrass Putin, it is disturbing evidence of palace intrigue and political instability in the Kremlin. If Putin received advance notification about the arrest and failed to order the use of less draconian tactics, he has done a disservice to the press freedoms he says he supports.

f June 15