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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow
"Berezovsky and Gusinsky - once so powerful and influential"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 1 November, 2000, 21:10 GMT
Russian media moguls summoned
Vladimir Gusinsky talks after being released from prison in June
Mr Gusinsky: A thorn in President Putin's side
Prosecutors in Russia have summoned two prominent media tycoons for questioning later this month over alleged financial crimes.

Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky have both been threatened with criminal charges and told to present themselves at the prosecutor-general's office in Moscow on 13 November. Their cases are not related and neither man is in the country.

Mr Berezovsky is due to be questioned over allegations that hundreds of millions of dollars were channelled from the Russian national airline, Aeroflot, into Swiss bank accounts. He has denied any wrong-doing.

This is all about pressure and intimidation

Media-Most spokesman
Mr Gusinsky, one of Mr Putin's fiercest critics, is accused of fraud in a case involving his company Media-Most. He has already ignored one summons.

Officials have threatened to issue a warrant for his arrest if he fails to turn up again.

A spokesman for Mr Gusinsky denounced the case as politically-motivated and plain blackmail.

"We are certain that any efforts to influence Media-Most by undoubtedly illegal methods are doomed to collapse," the company said in a statement.

'Large-scale theft'

Both cases are thought to reflect President Vladimir Putin's distaste for a small group of so-called oligarchs who amassed vast wealth through privatisation deals following the collapse of communism.

Boris Berezovsky
Mr Berezovsky denies wrongdoing
Mr Putin has said he will not allow big businessmen opposed to post-Soviet reforms to stand in his way.

A statement from prosecutors investigating the Aeroflot case said investigators had "gathered sufficient evidence to announce charges of large-scale theft".

Deputy Prosecutor-General Vasily Kolmogorov told state television that Mr Berezovsky was a "main figure", but not necessarily a suspect, in the case.

Out of favour

Mr Gusinsky was arrested and jailed for four days in June after being questioning in connection with embezzlement charges. He left the country immediately after the accusations were dropped.

The case sparked condemnation of Mr Putin, who was accused of seeking to influence Media-Most's coverage of the Chechnya conflict.

Mr Berezovksy and Mr Gusinsky own interests in two of Russia's three national television networks.

The former, who was a member of former President Boris Yeltsin's inner circle, has fallen from grace since President Putin took over in January.

The latter fell out with the Kremlin shortly after he and other magnates supported President Yeltsin's 1996 re-election effort.

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28 Mar 00 | Business
Russia's new oligarchs
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