Behind the smudged wire-rims, he had the diffident eyes of an office clerk.

There he was at the far end of the witness table — a round-bellied man of 43 in a rumpled Italian suit, listening to the well-intentioned symposium on “Freedom of the Press in Russia.”

One could barely believe that he had flown in from New York that morning on his very own private jet, a richly leathered British Aerospace 700; that he is czar of a Russian real estate, banking and media empire known as the Most Group (“most” is Russian for “bridge”); and that for the past three months he has found it prudent to stay out of Moscow and his corporate headquarters, lest he be assassinated by mafiosi or possibly even the henchmen of his onetime ally, President Boris Yeltsin.

“I don’t want to be in the spotlight,” Vladimir Gusinsky explained later. “So I sat and kept my mouth shut.”


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