New York, May 11, 2000
— Up to forty investigators and police commandos raided the Moscow offices of a media company that has often criticized Kremlin policies, according to local and international news reports. While Russian authorities claim the raid was connected to an investigation of so-called economic crimes, company representatives say they are convinced the action was politically motivated.

The raid began at approximately 9.30 a.m., when masked men arrived at the head office of the Media-Most group, which is owned by Russian business tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky and includes NTV Television, Ekho Moskvy radio, the daily newspaper Segodnya and the weekly news magazine Itogi. At least three of the raiders were armed and wore camouflage uniforms and ski masks. Others were in plain clothes, according to Media-Most eyewitnesses who were quoted in the wire reports. The men identified themselves as representatives of the tax inspection service, but gave no further details as they searched the offices for documents.

Later in the day, the Interfax news agency reported that the raid had been conducted by the Russian Interior Ministry’s Main Directorate for Fighting Economic Crime, the Prosecutor-General’s office, and the tax police. The report added that the search was part of a criminal investigation into former Finance Ministry officials suspected of abuse of office.

Media-Most representatives denounced the raid, claiming that it was prompted by their coverage of official corruption and of Russia’s military campaign in Chechnya. In a statement, Media-Most said that its media outlets had persistently uncovered high-level corruption. “There is no doubt that today’s action aims at blocking their professional duties,” the statement claimed.

According to news reports, groups of armed men were also posted outside other Media-Most buildings that house Internet and satellite communications operations.

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