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TV boss to fight extradition to Russia

MADRID, Spain -- Media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky has told a Spanish court he will fight extradition to Russia to face fraud charges.

Reiterating his belief that he is a victim of a political campaign, he said: "I don't want to be extradited because I don't believe that Russian justice is independent."

Gusinsky, head of Russia's leading independent media group Media-Most, has been under effective house arrest in his luxury villa in Spain since December, awaiting hearings that might force him to return to Russia.

Gusinsky, speaking outside the High Court after appearing before Judge Baltasar Garzon, added: "They want my extradition for political reasons and for political opportunism."

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The case now goes before a panel of judges at the High Court in Madrid.

The Kremlin says Gusinsky is guilty of fraud, but his supporters say the case is part of the Russian government's campaign to stop Media-Most's open criticism of the Kremlin.

Back in Russia, Gusinsky's group is also defending itself against a takeover bid by state-controlled gas group Gazprom by trying to sell CNN founder Ted Turner a 25 percent blocking stake in Media-Most's leading television station NTV.

Refuting criticism that it wants to gag Media-Most's independent voice, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Turner in a recent letter that he shared his convictions that the media "must be honest and balanced."

However Putin did not provide a requested guarantee that the Kremlin would not interfere in editorial matters.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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