on July 12, 2004
This article was
written for UPI - United Press International MOSCOW, July 12 (UPI) -- Paul
Klebnikov, editor of "Forbes Russia," was killed in Moscow on Friday
night. There is every indication he was a victim of a professional contract
an expert investigative journalist, Klebnikov quickly amassed numerous foes
wealthy elite. In Russia,
it remains dangerous to talk and write about other people's money. A strong
opponent of Russia's
"oligarchic" economy, Vladimir Putin has
lost one of his most articulate supporters.
is believed that Klebnikov was gunned down by two assailants -- four of the
nine bullets fired hitting the intended target. Klebnikov, who was found by a
magazine employee, died before receiving emergency medical care. Before he
died, it is reported that he said he had no idea who would want to kill him.
of the highly regarded bestseller, "Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia," Klebnikov was
relatively new to Moscow
-- but was no stranger to Russian politics and business. Of Russian descent and
at Forbes for 15 years, his coverage of Russia's very corrupt transition to
a market economy was a benchmark of quality writings for journalists and
April 22, Vladimir Lenin's birthday, Klebnikov launched publication of
writing that Russia
had "began a new, more civilized stage of development." The following
month, the magazine's very popular flagship product of ranking the country's
wealthiest individuals was a media sensation. In the same issue he wrote,
"The era of so-called bandit-capitalism is already in the past. In the mid-90s
it was very, very dirty process."
ranking of the wealthy is known worldwide, but not in Russia. Journalists are often
killed in Russia
for writing on corruption and how the wealthy generate income. Thus, when
Russian media do comment on the wealth of the business elite, it does so with
caution. "Forbes Russia"
did not use caution -- it carefully calculated.
the publication of the "100 richest," many in the ranking claimed
their wealth was grossly over-estimated and were outraged by the intense media
coverage. To add to their concerns, the Kremlin's leading auditing and
investigative agencies commented that Klebnikov's methodology and conclusions
were accurate. This instantly made Klebnikov's a very unpopular media figure
"oligarchs" and the wealthy in general.
of "Forbes Russia" comes at a time when the wealthy are carefully
watching the legal travails of Russia's richest individual, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the Kremlin's assault on the country largest
privately own company, the oil giant, Yukos. With
hints that the Kremlin intends to take down other oligarchs, the last thing the
wealthy want is a higher media profile. There was every reason to believe that
Klebnikov intended to keep doing what he was best at -- expert coverage of
illegal business activity in Russia.
May, Klebnikov regularly appeared on television talks shows. He was openly
critical of Russia's
transition from communism -- which created a small group of super-rich, the
oligarchs. Klebnikov also expressed his support of Vladimir Putin
and the president's economic reform efforts. With the Kremlin's continuing
offensive against the oligarchs, Klebnikov most likely was seen as an outsider
meddling in the affairs of others.
came to Russia
full of enthusiasm and optimism. He came to a Russia that he believed no longer
had to resort to high-profile contract killings. Klebnikov had come to believe
that lawyers and the law itself was enough protection when writing openly and
professionally about Russian business. It is a tragic irony that Klebnikov was
probably killed by the people he investigated and publicly despised -- corrupt
officials and the darker side of the business world.
Russia's officialdom was
quick to condemn Klebnikov's murder, with General Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov
personally taking charge of the investigation. Since Friday, the Moscow rumor mill has
created a checklist of possible reasons for the slaying -- all pointing to
subjects and people Klebnikov wrote about over the last four months or
speculation on what he intended to write.
given the authorities' poor record with solving professional hits, few in Moscow expect to learn the
truth behind Klebnikov's murder -- let alone see the culprits convicted in
Russia's print journalism
has suffered a terrible loss with the passage of Paul Klebnikov. Russia
itself is poorer as well. Klebnikov's faith that a new Russia is in the making has been
dealt a severe setback.