Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Khlebnikov Questions

In Moscow, the investigation of the case of the killing of American journalist Paul Khlebnikov appears to be entering its final phase. The Prosecutor General's Office announced on Thursday that it had "wrapped up" the investigation, and that a suspected Chechen "rebel financier", the subject of a scathing book by Klebnikov, had ordered the slaying. Last Friday, the Moscow Times reported that
Investigators have established that Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, whom Khlebnikov interviewed extensively for his 2003 book "Conversations With a Barbarian," was responsible for ordering the killing, which was carried out by members of a Chechen criminal group, Prosecutor General's Office spokesman Vasily Lushchenko said Thursday.
However, a RIA Novosti commentary released yesterday makes no mention of Nukhayev, and suggests what looks like a much more probable motive for the killing:
The summer Khlebnikov was killed, The National Interest, a U.S. quarterly journal of international affairs and diplomacy, wrote that Vladimir Putin had lost one of his most unswerving supporters.

The investigators said they believed that the journalist had been killed because he planned to write about the embezzlement of funds allocated to the reconstruction of the war-ravaged Chechnya. The Chechen conflict, which entered a difficult phase in December 1994, was another consequence of the distorted policies of the 1990s, which international terrorism is trying to exploit now.

Khlebnikov would have been a major headache for the corrupt Russian and Chechen officials who started embezzling state money ten years ago, claiming that it was consumed in the flames of war. But the journalist did not finish his investigation this time. On June 25, 2004, Yan Sergunin, a former vice-premier of Chechnya who had promised to provide revelatory information to Khlebnikov, was killed. Paul died two and a half weeks later.

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