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Russia6 July 2006

Putin and Bush urged to request UN probe into US journalist’s murder in Moscow

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Reporters Without Borders today called on Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George W. Bush, who are to meet at the G8 summit on 15-17 July in St. Petersburg, to ask the United Nations to carry out an independent investigation into the unsolved murder of US journalist Paul Klebnikov exactly two years ago in Moscow.

“After three people accused of murdering Klebnikov were acquitted by a Russian court at the end of a farce of a trial on 5 May, it is clear that justice even in such a high profile case remains elusive in Russia,” the press freedom organisation said.

“It is intolerable that impunity should prevail and press freedom should be flouted like this in a country that is a G8 member,” Reporters Without Borders continued. “Klebnikov is the 13th journalist to be murdered in Russia since 2000. His family, his widow and his two children all have a right to know the truth. For all these reasons, the investigation should start again from scratch.”

Recalling President Putin’s statement at last month’s World Newspaper Congress in Moscow that a progressive state should have a free press, Reporters Without Borders said he should demonstrate his commitment to press freedom by reaffirming the need to solve the Klebnikov murder to his counterparts at the G8 summit. Putin has made no public comment about the case since the trial of the alleged murderers began in January.

The US House of Representatives condemned the Klebnikov murder on 16 May and asked the Russian authorities to press on with their investigations. A similar resolution was introduced on June 29 in the US senate with Senator Hillary Clinton’s support and has a good chance of being approved.

“In view of the irregularities seen in the investigation since 2004, we think there is now no alternative but to set up an independent commission,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Mr. Putin and Mr. Bush, you are to meet within a few days at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg. We urge you to ask the United Nations to create an international commission to investigate the Klebnikov murder.”

The editor of the Russian edition of the US magazine Forbes, Klebnikov was gunned down as he left his Moscow office on 9 July 2004 and died in the ambulance that rushed him to hospital. The investigators worked on the assumption that Chechens were behind his murder as he had written extensively about Chechnya. Suspects were quickly arrested but the trial was marred by numerous procedures violations.

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