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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gusinsky Camp Hails Extradition Decision

Supporters of Vladimir Gusinsky hailed Wednesday's decision by the Spanish High Court not to extradite the Russian media baron, but Moscow's Prosecutor General said the Kremlin critic was not off the hook just yet.

Theatre director turned tycoon Gusinsky was arrested on fraud charges in Spain last December and insists he is a victim of a Kremlin drive to emasculate his outspoken Media-Most empire. His flagship NTV television station has been taken over and two key publications shut down in the last fortnight.

"(The decision) confirms the unfairness of the Prosecutor General's accusations against Gusinsky and the politically motivated nature of the charges," spokesman Dmitry Ostalsky told Reuters after Russia's extradition request was thrown out.

"The whole Media-Most and Gusinsky case was something out of nothing, he did not commit any crime as we've said for months, and the decision of a truly independent court confirms this."

But Natalya Vishnyakova, spokeswoman for Russia's Prosecutor General, refused to accept defeat.

"We don't think this decision is a disaster, and ways of securing Gusinsky's extradition still exist," Interfax news agency quoted Vishnyakova as saying. "All possibilities have not been exhausted."

Spanish prosecutors may appeal to another panel at the High Court against the ruling on behalf of Russian authorities within three days, defense lawyer Domingo Plazas said earlier.

State-dominated gas giant Gazprom seized Gusinsky's flagship NTV television station in a boardroom coup earlier this month, with new managers locking out dissenting journalists after a dawn raid on Saturday.

Gazprom says it just wants to recoup vast debts run up by Gusinsky, but he insists a vengeful Kremlin is at work.

Media-Most said the case had sullied Russia's international standing, after both the U.S. and European Union raised fears over the motivation behind Moscow's moves against Gusinsky.

"The Prosecutor General has done huge damage to the reputation of our country," Media-Most said in a statement.

"It has become obvious that, alongside the destruction of the independent media, the destruction of an independent legal system is also taking place."

Prominent Russian politicians have spoken in support of Gusinsky at protest rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg that attracted thousands of people this month.

"This decision was not at all unexpected. There was too much politics in this case, that's why the court's decision turned out the way it did," Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party, said on Wednesday.

But Sergei Reshulsky, a prominent Communist Party politician, said Gusinsky's court victory was a hollow one now his media empire was in tatters.

"Considering what has happened with NTV, what significance could this decision have?" he said.

Reports that U.S. media mogul Ted Turner was poised to buy a stake of NTV to try to save its independence have subsided since its takeover by Gazprom, with analysts saying there was little left to buy after the departure of its reporting staff.

Co-owners of Gusinsky's political weekly Itogi this week fired editorial staff a day after closing liberal daily Segodnya. Editors at his Ekho Moskvy radio station said they would also fold when debts fell due in three months.

Alexei Venediktov, editor-in chief of Ekho Moskvy, told Reuters that the embattled tycoon was unbowed in his fight to rebuild his battered media empire.

"As far as I understand, Gusinsky does not intend to give up. In all courts, in Russia and in Europe, he will try to get his property back, property taken away in his absence."