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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spanish Court Releases Gusinsky

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A Spanish court released Vladimir Gusinsky on bail Monday and — although no official statement was made — the decision was seen by some sources close to the case as an indication that he would not be extradited asthe Russian Prosecutor General's Office has requested.

Spain's National Court ordered that Gusinsky be moved from Madrid's Soto el Real prison back to his villa in Sotogrande, in southern Spain, but maintained the $5.5 million bail he had posted in December, The Associated Press reported from Madrid.

"Given the present state of our deliberations [on the extradition request], it is appropriate that the current situation of the arrested person should be changed and he should be released immediately," the court said in a brief statement.

Citing unidentified court sources, AP reported that Monday's ruling indicated the three-judge panel had already rejected the extradition request, but hadn't made its decision public yet.

Click here to read our special report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

Gusinsky is wanted on charges of large-scale fraud, which Media-MOST has repeatedly described as politically motivated because of its media's critical coverage of President Vladimir Putin's Kremlin.

The final decision on Gusinsky's extradition is to be made by the Spanish government on the basis of the court's decision, which can be apealed. It was not clear Monday when the final ruling is expected.

Media-MOST spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky hailed the court's decision as "wise and humane."

"Formally, it is not related to the extradition ruling," Ostalsky said in a telephone interview Monday. "But it evokes optimism about the Spanish justice system."

He also said that a cell in Soto el Real, where Gusinsky was placed March 13 ahead of the extradition hearings, was "not the best place" for holding negotiations about Media-MOST's future.

Media-MOST and its largest shareholder and creditor Gazprom-Media are negotiating a potential sale of an unspecified stake in several Media-MOST companies with a consortium of investors, which includes CNN founder Ted Turner and financier George Soros. At the same time, Gazprom-Media continues to pursue a court decision on its claim to a decisive 19 percent stake in Media-MOST's most influential company, NTV television.

On Monday, the Moscow Arbitration Court reversed an earlier decision by scheduling hearings on control over NTV for May 25. Last month, the court had postponed the hearings until Oct. 3 — a decision regarded as an interim victory for Media-MOST.

The dispute over the 19 percent, currently held by Gazprom-Media as collateral for a loan to Media-MOST that matures in July, derives from last November's contract between the two companies, which they have accused each other of violating. Media-MOST pins its hopes for a resolution on a March 28 hearing in a London court.

"So far, since the 19 percent has been frozen by the court, we continue to say that we control NTV [with 46 percent]," Gazprom-Media spokeswoman Aelita Yefimova said Monday. She also said the company still has not seen any written proposals from the Turner-led consortium and will go ahead as planned with NTV's general shareholders meeting, scheduled for April 3. Gazprom-Media said it will try to oust Gusinsky and his associates from the NTV board of directors at the meeting.

Ostalsky called the April 3 meeting "illegal" because it was convened without the consent of the board of directors, chaired by Gusinsky.

But Anatoly Blinov, Gazprom-Media's Moscow lawyer and a member of its board of directors, said that if Media-MOST boycotts the meeting, Gazprom-Media has the right to call another one 10 days later, where its 46 percent stake will be sufficient for a quorum.

"As of today, we consider NTV ours," Blinov said. "What remains is to seal this with a proper legal decision."

In Spain, Gusinsky will have to report to police daily in the southern province of Cadiz, where he lives in a luxurious villa, until the extradition decision is finalized.