Russia1 December 2004
Reporters Without Borders appeals to interior minister over murder of Paul Khlebnikov
The prosecutor’s office in Moscow has charged Musa Vakhayev in connection with the 9 July 2004 murder of Paul Khlebnikov, editor of the Russian-language edition of the American Forbes magazine.
Meanwhile the Belarus security forces announced on 29 November that in a joint investigation involving Russian investigators and Belarus secret services (KGB) it had arrested four suspects including Kazbek Duzokov, a Chechen member of Moscow’s criminal underworld.
"We continue to watch this case very carefully to see that the investigation produces concrete results in a reasonable time scale", said Reporters Without Borders, in a letter to the Russian interior minister, Rashid Nurgaliev. "But we are also looking at the reliability and credibility of the charges against the suspects arrested in this case."
"It is vital for the safety of the entire profession that this case is cleared up. If you can murder an American journalist with complete impunity in the streets of the capital, what are the risks for Russian journalists in the provinces investigating sensitive issues like corruption?" it asked.
Musa Vakhayev, 40, originally from Urus-Martan in Chechnya, is suspected of being the driver of the getaway vehicle used in the murder of Khlebnikov, who was gunned down as he left his office. Investigators say his fingerprints were in the vehicle that was found the following day in a Moscow street.
Kazbek Duzukov, arrested in Minsk, is suspected to have carried out the murder itself. The Belarus interior ministry said that the four people arrested in Minsk would be handed over to the Russian authorities but gave no further details.
The daily Kommersant has said that Khlebnikov may have been murdered because he was investigating the embezzlement of hundreds of millions of dollars allocated to the reconstruction of Chechnya. The paper said that Khlebnikov’s report would have "damaged the interests of a number of officials at both the Chechen and federal level".
Peter Khlebnikov, the editor’s brother, said on 18 November that a group of Russian and US journalists had decided to carry out their own independent investigation.