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Russia Tycoon Quits Jewish Group

March 1, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) _ Embattled media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky has resigned as president of the Russian Jewish Congress, saying his legal and political troubles prevented him from leading the group, congress officials said Thursday.

Gusinsky, who heads Russia’s main independent media holding Media-Most, is under house arrest in Spain pending a Spanish decision on whether to extradite him to Moscow.

Russian prosecutors accuse Gusinsky of fraud, but the tycoon’s supporters insist the charges are punishment for his media’s critical reporting on President Vladimir Putin and his circle.

Gusinsky said his legal problems had made him ``unable at the present time to efficiently lead the Russian Jewish Congress,″ the group said in a statement. The group has supported Gusinsky in his troubles with the government.

Congress leaders met Thursday to approve Gusinsky’s resignation. They appointed Leonid Nevzlin, a deputy chief of the Yukos oil company, as acting president.

Gusinsky ``made this decision, I can guarantee it, without any kind of pressure from anybody in the Russian Jewish Congress in particular and from anybody in the Russian Jewish community as a whole,″ said a deputy chief of the organization, Alexander Osovtsev.

``He made this decision because he is not in Russia now and is unable to visit,″ Osovtsov told the Echo of Moscow radio station.

Gusinsky’s Media-Most has been embroiled in a long business and political dispute with the government.

Tax authorities are seeking to liquidate for insolvency Media-Most’s flagship NTV television _ Russia’s only nationwide network that is not controlled by the state. Media-Most leaders have also been charged with fraud, and a state-controlled natural gas company has been trying to take over a chunk of Media-Most stakes for bad debts.

International media watchdog groups and human rights organizations have protested the government’s actions.