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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

32-Man Jail Cell For NTV Manager

Svetlana Titova is holding up well considering what has happened to her husband, Media-MOST's 34-year-old financial director Anton Titov.

He has been in jail since Jan. 16 on charges of embezzlement, and this week he was transferred from an eight-man cell to a 32-man cell in the Matrosskaya Tishina prison.

Media-MOST lawyers believe he is being punished for his refusal to give investigators whatever evidence they are looking for in their attempt to destroy Vladimir Gusinsky's media empire.

"From the moment of his arrest, I would call it not just psychological pressure but planned torture, given the conditions of our prisons," Titova, 30, said Tuesday in an interview.

When she saw her husband Friday — they spoke for 20 minutes by phone while separated by two layers of glass, all she could get after three weeks of bureaucratic hassle and humiliation — he said he had not been abused by his cellmates. "But that was before he was moved to this 32-men cell," she added with uncertainty.

Media-MOST lawyers, pointing to Titov's arrest as the prime example of lawlessness on the part of prosecutors handling the Media-MOST case, issued an open letter to both chambers of parliament Tuesday calling for a parliamentary commission to investigate the prosecutor general's activities.

"Anton Titov, a mid-level manager, who was not a member of the holding's board of directors, a man haunted by many illnesses, the father of a baby, who did not intend to flee anywhere, who appeared for all interrogations and presented all the requested documents, is now held hostage and illegally imprisoned," the letter said.

"Without any grounds, the apartment of his aged, ailing mother was searched and she was hospitalized with a serious heart condition."

The letter was signed by lawyers Genri Reznik, Pavel Astakhov, Yury Bagrayev, Mikhail Burmistrov, Geralina Lyubarskaya and Oleg Maklakov.

When NTV journalists met with President Vladimir Putin on Jan. 29 in the Kremlin, Titov's fate was the first topic they raised. They said the financial officer fell victim to the prosecutors because all of the company's top management was abroad.

"Since Gusinsky, [his deputies Igor] Malashenko and [Andrei] Tsimailo were beyond reach, they took the one who was around," "Kukly" program writer Viktor Shenderovich said on Ekho Moskvy radio after the meeting. "This man's father died, his mother is now in the hospital in serious condition. He is being interrogated at night. They are simply trying to break him. I asked the president: 'Help us free the hostage!' He said: 'What can I do?"'

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Svetlana Titova described the situation in the family as "horrible." Her husband's father, Vladimir, died of brain cancer four months before the arrest. His mother, who has diabetes, collapsed with heart problems after the search in her apartment, where Titov has not lived since he got married in 1994.

During the search, his wife said, investigator Yury Yermakov shouted, in front of the neighbors, that Titov's 62-year-old mother, Galina, has raised an "out-and-out criminal" who must go to prison. During the search, only Titov's private letters were confiscated.

Fearing that their daughter Masha, who is 2 1/2 years old, would see investigators turn their apartment upside down, Titova sent her off to stay with her parents. Titova now spends most of her time meeting with lawyers, prison officials and waiting in lines to pass packages of food and clothes to her husband.

"She would not be able to understand that dad is in prison," Titova said. "The official line is that papa is sick and mama is taking care of him. Kids at this age tend to blame themselves if dad doesn't come home for some reason. So, we give her gifts that 'papa' has sent."

The Titovs' apartment was never searched, but their dacha was. All the prosecutors confiscated was a home video of their 1995 vacation in Spain and Turkey, a year before Media-MOST holding was formed and three years before Gazprom lent it money.

Titova's stories illustrate what Media-MOST describes as a pointless and brutal policy of intimidation on the part of the prosecutor's office.

At a news conference Tuesday, Reznik said that in his 15 years as a defense lawyer, he has never encountered such ruthless and legally incompetent behavior on the part of the Prosecutor General's Office, which, he said, poses a serious threat to Russian democracy.

"In a situation of an outdated Criminal Procedures Code, an unreformed prosecutor's office and inconsistent court practice, the Prosecutor General's Office has emerged as an essentially uncontrollable body," Reznik said. "One can appeal the Prosecutor General's Office's actions only to the Prosecutor General's Office."

After Titov's arrest, he was put in a five-man cell in the Butyrskaya Prison, but several days later transferred to a 38-man cell under the pretext of the cell's repair. By that time, Titov's lawyers had filed a complaint to the Tverskoi municipal court demanding that the financial officer be released under the condition that he not leave Moscow.

Astakhov said that Titov's family situation and stamps in his passport — showing he had traveled abroad twice between questionings and had returned to Russia, and thus was not planning to flee — were sufficient legal grounds to release him.

The court hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, but it did not take place. Early this month, prosecutors transferred Titov to Matrosskaya Tishina prison, which is in the jurisdiction of another court. The documents also had to be transferred and, since they were sent by ordinary mail, they reached the new court only late last week, Astakhov and Titova said. After spending a week or so in an eight-men cell, Titov was put into the 32-man cell.

Astakhov said Titov was in good condition psychologically when he saw him Monday, but the steadily worsening conditions were a result of his refusal to testify. "They want to make him give testimony that would suit the investigators' needs," the lawyer said.

Titov has refused to answer questions until he is released and has demanded that investigator Salavat Karimov be struck from the case, Astakhov said.

Titova said that her "workaholic" husband never discussed work at home. Herself a former clerk in MOST-Bank where her husband also worked in the early 1990s, she said his signature is likely to be on some of the documents that have been confiscated by the prosecutor's office — on the order of 500 kilograms of paper, lawyers say.

Investigators are trying to prove that a 5 billion-ruble ($260 million) loan received from Gazprom in 1998 and formally settled in October 1999 by giving the gas giant shares in Media-MOST, was not meant to be repaid and thus constituted embezzlement. "When a person puts his signature on something, it does not mean that he had made the decision," Titova said.

And what about the decision-makers? Gusinsky called her once, the day after her husband was arrested, and wished her courage. And courageous she is — not a tear during the interview, and an occasional joke and laughter.

Gusinsky, who spent three days in Butyrka before being allowed to leave the country in July, is under police guard in Spain while fighting extradition to Russia.

What about Gusinsky's deputies and Titov's immediate superiors, who are also abroad? "I prefer not to answer this question," Titova said sadly, excusing them immediately. "They are very busy people trying to save their enterprise."

"Now, this is more of a family affair," she said. Her hopes are pinned not so much on Media-MOST or its lawyers, but on her faith in God.

She declines all talk about politics and prefers to speak about the difference between the two prisons (Butyrka is "heaven" compared to Matrosskaya Tishina, she said) and about people she has met in prison lines and what appears to her to be a vast number of innocent people behind bars.

"Before our clash with reality, I had thought that there was some sort of law in our country," she said. "Now, I don't have these illusions." The Struggle for Media-MOST