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The Moscow Times, July 13, 2004

Klebnikov Case Given High Priority

By Valeria Korchagina
In a sign that the government has come to see the killing of Forbes Russia editor Paul Klebnikov as not just another murder, the unit of the Prosecutor General's Office that handles high-priority cases was put in charge of the case Monday.

"This means that the case's status has been raised," Prosecutor General's Office spokesman Viktor Potapov said. The investigation had been handled by the City Prosecutor's Office, which had reported little progress.

The first official reaction to Friday night's killing also came Monday, when Mikhail Seslavinsky, the head of the Federal Press and Mass Media Agency, expressed his condolences to the family and friends of Klebnikov, a 41-year-old American.

"A talented journalist and media manager has died," Seslavinsky wrote in an official statement carried by Interfax. "We hope that the motive behind the murder will be found and those guilty of the murder punished."

The motive, however, remained unclear. The most popular theory put forward by Russian newspapers on Monday was that the murder could have been ordered by someone displeased by the list of Russia's 100 wealthiest people that was published by Forbes in May.

Along the same line went the theory that any other businessman investigated by Forbes could be linked to the murder.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who topped the Forbes list, sent a letter of condolence to Forbes' offices in New York.

"Paul undoubtedly made a very important contribution to promoting the traditions of openness and transparency in Russian markets," wrote Khodorkovsky, the jailed former CEO of Yukos. "He was a man one could argue with, in a constructive spirit, and argue we did. No matter whether they agreed or disagreed with him, many people disclosed things to Paul that had previously not been in the public domain."

Another theory mentioned by a number of major newspapers, including Kommersant, Izvestia and Vremya Novostei, was that Chechen separatists could be connected to the killing.

Klebnikov published a book last year based on interviews with former separatist commander Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev. The book, "Conversations With a Barbarian," is a mix of Nukhayev's tales of fighting in Chechnya, his views on the future of Islam in Russia and worldwide, and Klebnikov's own commentary. It could have provoked a negative reaction from Nukhayev's immediate allies or other Chechen leaders on the separatists' side, the newspapers said.

Klebnikov met Nukhayev while investigating Boris Berezovsky's connections to Chechen rebels. Berezovsky, too, was mentioned in the papers as someone who could have been sufficiently angry with Klebnikov to wish him dead. In 2000, Klebnikov published "Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia."

The U.S. Embassy said Monday it is staying in close contact with Russian law enforcement authorities regarding the investigation.

Embassy spokesman Thomas Leary issued a statement extending deep condolences to Klebnikov's family from Ambassador Alexander Vershbow and the entire embassy community.

"Paul Klebnikov's background and interests ideally suited him to the task of explaining Russia to Americans and vice versa," the statement said. "He was a person who tried to take the best American values -- fair play, equality and openness -- and apply them in Russia, a country that he loved."


See also:

the original at

Freedom of Speech and Media Law in Russia

The Moscow Times, July 13, 2004

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