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Russia14 November 2005

New revelations cast doubt on the theory that Khlebnikov’s murder was ordered by Chechen warlord Nukhayev

The daily Izvestia reported on 14 November 2005 that Faik Sadreddinov, a Moscow notary accused of involvement in the murder of Paul Khlebnikov and arrested on 4 June, had sent a letter to Michael Khlebnikov, one of the US journalist’s brothers, after seeing the charge sheet in prison.

Quoting a report by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), carried out at the request of the Russian investigators and which forms part of the charge sheet, the notary said that Khlebnikov was working on a "terrifying" investigation and that he was preparing to publish the names of leading Russian political figures, after uncovering their links with Chechen separatists.

Khlebnikov’s spiritual adviser, the orthodox priest Leonid Kalinin, quoted by Izvestia, confirmed that the American journalist had confided in him that he was working on "serious journalistic investigations, alongside which the interview with the warlord Kozh-Akhmed Nukhayev was infant prattling".

On 16 June, Russia’s prosecutor’s office announced that the investigation into the murder of Paul Khlebnikov had been closed and that it had been instigated by Chechen separatist leader Kozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, without specifying the date of the opening of the trial.

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A year after Khlebnikov murder, entire Russian press needs case to be solved

8 July 2005

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Solving the murder of US journalist Paul Khlebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of the US magazine Forbes, is "crucial" for the entire Russian media profession, Reporters Without Borders said today, a year after he was gunned down in Moscow on 9 July 2004.

"Violence against journalists in Russian is increasing constantly and inevitably results in a degree of self-censorship," the press freedom organisation said. "Twelve journalists have been killed in Russia since 2000 but no one has been brought to trial for any of these murders. If you can shoot a US journalist on a Moscow street with complete impunity, imagine the risks for Russian journalists in the provinces trying to cover sensitive issues such as corruption."

Reporters Without Borders added: "We call on the Russian authorities to ensure that all leads have been exhaustively explored before closing this case. It would be very serious if those so far charged turn out to nothing more than convenient scapegoats."

The investigation by the office of the Russian state prosecutor has gained pace since two Russians of Chechen origin were charged on 13 May.

Musa Vakhayev, 40, from the Chechen city of Urus-Martan was arrested by Moscow prosecutors on 18 November 2004. He is suspected of being the driver of the car used by the gunman who shot Khlebnikov four times as he left his Moscow office. Investigators said his fingerprints were in the car, which was found on a Moscow street the day after the killing. The second suspect is Kazbek Dukuzov, the alleged the trigger-man. He was extradited from Belarus in March.

A Moscow notary, Faik Sadreddinov, was arrested and placed under investigation on 4 June on suspicion of being involved. Russia’s prosecutor-general said on 16 June that other suspected participants in the killing had been identified, naming Magomed Dukuzov, the brother of Kazbek Dukuzov, Magomed Edilsultanov and "others" now on a wanted list.

The prosecutor’s office also announced the same day that it had concluded that the murder was ordered by Chechen separatist leader Hodj-Akhmed Nukhayev and that the case was now closed. No date was set for a trial, however.

Aged 41, Khlebnikov was an award-winning investigative journalist who had worked for Forbes for nearly 15 years. Shortly before his death, he had been investigating the embezzlement of hundreds millions of dollars earmarked for Chechen reconstruction.

In 2003, he published "Conversations with a Barbarian," extracts of which were published in Forbes. Nukhayev, who was briefly deputy prime minister in the Chechen separatist government in May 1996, was quoted in the book as saying that he was involved in gangsterism after the first Russo-Chechen war (1994-1996) before devoting himself to the political struggle within the "Chechen Land of Islam" movement. Khlebnikov met Nukhayev in 2001. Nukhayev announced in October 2003 that he would "take up arms again" and return to Chechnya, after spending several years in the Azerbaijan capital of Baku. "If someone kills or simply insults a member of your clan (...) he will be hunted down for the rest of his life. He will not escape punishment," Khlebnikov quoted Nukhayev as saying in an article carried by Forbes.

Michael and Peter Khlebnikov, the journalist’s brothers, have voiced doubts about the claim that it was Nukhayev who instigated the murder. "This amazed us," Michael Khlebnikov said. "We never heard anything from Paul that would have led us to think that after the book came out Mr. Nukhayev was unhappy about anything," he said. The Khlebnikov family has urged the Russian judicial authorities to let investigators from other countries join the inquiry, stressing that the suspected instigator is probably abroad.

"I am delighted to learn that they have finally arrested the killers and the instigator of the murder of my nephew - assuming the information is correct - shot dead because he was doing his job," Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, member of the French Academy, told Reporters Without Borders.

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