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Russian media magnate arrested

MADRID, Spain -- Russian media baron Vladimir Gusinsky, wanted in his home country for alleged embezzlement, has been arrested in Spain.

Gusinsky was detained in the southern beach resort of Sotogrande, near the city of Cadiz, a Spanish police spokesman said on Tuesday.

"Members of the national police arrested Vladimir Gusinsky in his residence in Sotogrande at 0010 local time (2310 GMT on Monday)," the spokesman said.

Gusinsky was taken to the town of La Linea, next to the British colony of Gibraltar, pending a decision by Spain's High Court on whether to press ahead with extradition proceedings.

A lawyer for Gusinsky said his legal team would fight to block his extradition to Russia.

Speaking from Russia, lawyer Pavel Astakhov said Gusinsky's legal team were confident they could show Spanish authorities that the arrest warrant for Gusinsky was politically motivated and he should not be sent to Russia.

"Under international conventions there is protection for suspects in political cases," he said.

A spokesman for Gusinsky, Dimitry Ostalsky, said he was in custody after a hearing at a court near his residence in southern Spain, and was being transferred to Madrid for hearings in a higher court.

Ostalsky said that Russian prosecutors had deceived Spanish authorities, persuading them there were grounds to arrest the businessman on fraud charges.

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"The Russian prosecutor general has, through the Russian bureau of Interpol, disinformed the law enforcement agencies of Spain, sending them material in the so-called Gusinsky case that is completely false," Ostalsky said.

He said Spanish police had acted on the Russian warrant because "the legal system of any civilised country ... cannot comprehend that there can be such a level of disinformation."

Russian authorities issued national and international arrest warrants after Gusinsky failed to appear for questioning on embezzlement allegations.

Any extradition would not take place until January at the earliest because Spain and Russia have no direct extradition treaty.

Crackdown on 'oligarchs'

Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to deal with alleged illegal activities of "oligarchs" like Gusinsky who made fortunes in the years following the collapse of Soviet rule.

A second media magnate, Boris Berezovsky, also remains overseas, refusing to appear for questioning before a Moscow prosecutor in connection with a case relating to the state airline Aeroflot.

Gusinsky, owner of Russia's largest independent countrywide media group, Media-Most, is charged with fraud allegations.

The charges against Gusinsky, who was jailed for three days earlier this year, have sparked fears of a clampdown on a free press in Russia.

Media-Most's flagship, NTV television, has frequently been critical of Kremlin policy.

After his brief detention in Moscow's notorious Butyrskaya prison, Gusinsky was released and allowed to go overseas.

Gusinsky, who has Russian and Israeli citizenship, left Russia in July, and had reportedly being dividing his time between Spain, Britain, Gibraltar and Israel.

His associates had stressed that he was not seeking to evade arrest, and that he frequently went abroad on business trips.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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