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The BBC's Clayre Gribben
"There may be an appeal, but for now he has one less thing to worry about"
 real 56k

The BBC's Flora Botsford
"The judges ruled that the facts... did not amount to a crime which would justify his extradition"
 real 28k

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Moscow
"NTV's former staff are fighting on to the bitter end"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
Russian tycoon flees to Israel
Vladimir Gusinsky
Gusinsky: Believes Israel will not extradite him
Russian media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky has flown from Spain to Israel, apparently in a new bid to escape the clutches of Moscow prosecutors.

If I go to Russia, it's a one-way ticket

Vladimir Gusinsky
He was able to leave Spain after a court there refused to extradite him to Moscow on fraud charges.

Mr Gusinsky, who holds Israeli and Russian citizenship, has not revealed how long he plans to stay in Israel.

But it appears he could remain there for some time in a kind of self-imposed exile.

"If I go to Russia, it's a one-way ticket," he told the French news agency AFP before flying to Israel.

Vladimir Putin
Putin: Threat to Europe, says Gusinsky
His lawyer said it would be "extremely difficult" for Russia to extradite him from Israel.

"If he is going to Israel, it is because he has full confidence in the Israeli Government," Spanish lawyer Domingo Plazas said.

However, some legal experts say Israel and Russia have signed a European agreement which technically makes extradition between the countries possible.

Mr Gusinsky flew to Israel on a hired executive jet from the British territory of Gibraltar, after crossing the border from Spain late on Tuesday.

Street protest in St Petersburg
The NTV takeover triggered public protests
He has been embroiled in a legal battle in Spain since December, when he was arrested on a warrant issued by state prosecutors in Russia.

He finally won the fight last week, when the Spanish High Court ruled that his alleged fraud offences were not crimes in Spain.

But within days, fresh charges alleging money-laundering were issued by Russian prosecutors, who said they would seek a new international arrest warrant.

Charges a 'joke'

The tycoon has insisted from the start that the charges against him are politically motivated, because his media group has adopted an anti-government stance on a number of key issues, including the war in Chechnya.

In a brief interview with the news agency Reuters before leaving Gibraltar, Mr Gusinsky described the new charges as a "joke".

"Money laundering is a very tough allegation," he said. "But the political motivation is clear. The regime destroys only media, not the steel or gas industry, just the media."

Mr Gusinsky has seen his media empire start to disintegrate during his extradition battle, most controversially with the takeover of his NTV television station by a state-dominated firm, Gazprom.

We have still not received any documents from the Spanish court that would prove the innocence or guilt of Gusinsky

Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov
Mr Gusinsky blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the situation.

"Putin wants absolute power...He is a danger to Europe," he said.

Moscow prosecutors, meanwhile, have reiterated their determination to get its hands on Mr Gusinsky.

"We want him to appear in a Russian court," said Prosecutor-General Vladimir Ustinov.

"We have still not received any documents from the Spanish court that would prove the innocence or guilt of Gusinsky."

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See also:

17 Apr 01 | Europe
Russian media empire crumbles
16 Jun 00 | Europe
Gusinsky: Thorn in Putin's side
16 Apr 01 | Europe
New blow against Gusinsky media
15 Apr 01 | Europe
In quotes: NTV takeover
14 Apr 01 | Europe
Analysis: The battle for NTV
13 Apr 01 | Media reports
Putin: 'NTV not my problem'
05 Apr 01 | Europe
NTV on air but protests continue
26 Mar 01 | Europe
Russian tycoon released on bail
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