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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MN Could Become Pro-State

MTArkady Gaidamak
New Moskovskiye Novosti owner Arkady Gaidamak suggested in an interview published Thursday that he planned to turn the perestroika-era flagship of the liberal press into a pro-government weekly.

"Newspapers, which are responsible for public opinion, should not direct the public against the powers that be," Gaidamak was quoted by Kommersant as saying.

"If the political and administrative structures in Russia are organized by people elected in free, democratic elections, it is not right to turn public opinion against them," he said.

Gaidamak, a Moscow-born businessman with four passports and a controversial past, bought Moskovskiye Novosti from Ukrainian media magnate Vadimir Rabinovich for an undisclosed sum last week. Rabinovich in turn had purchased the weekly in July from Leonid Nevzlin, a main Menatep shareholder who lives in Israel and is wanted in Russia on fraud and tax evasion charges.

Gaidamak said he bought the newspaper, which also has an English edition, Moscow News, because he wanted to acquire "an excellent old brand name," Kommersant reported.

"It wasn't important to me whether I bought a well-known newspaper, a sport club or some other well-known brand," he said. "What was essential to me was to become a person whose opinion could gain attention, ... and a newspaper is a way to gain people's attention."

Gaidamak said he had not yet decided who would be the next editor but that he hoped to create more interest in Moskovskiye Novosti by organizing sports and cultural events around it.

Alexei Simonov, head of the Glasnost Defense Foundation, a media freedom watchdog, said Gaidamak's purchase of Moskovskiye Novosti appeared to be a show of loyalty to the state that was motivated by his business ambitions.

"He cynically said out loud what other oligarchs are doing but prefer to keep quiet about," Simonov said. "Gaidamak is just canceling 15 years of activity at a respected newspaper."

Gaidamak's last known major purchase was the Israeli Premier League football club Beitar Jerusalem, which he acquired in August.

He has said his business interests lie in the production of mineral fertilizers.

He was once better known for his alleged involvement in a 1993 scheme to provide arms to Angola during its civil war and for his role in 1996 in negotiating a reduction in Angola's Soviet-era debt. He remains an adviser to Angola's Foreign Ministry and holds passports from Angola, Israel, France and Canada.