Calling the unsolved murder of an American Forbes editor in Moscow “a sickening punch in the gut,” Secretary of State John Kerry today called on the Kremlin to bring Paul Klebnikov’s killers to justice.
Klebnikov left his office in Moscow on the evening of July 9, 2004, and a targeted hit was waiting for him — nine bullets from a semiautomatic Russian Makarov.
Russian officials pinned blame on a Chechen who is believed to be out of the country, while others point to Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who killed himself last year. Klebnikov had exposed Berezovsky’s corruption in a piece calling him the “Godfather of the Kremlin.”
“Paul Klebnikov did more than write about politics and business in Russia. He was a voice of conscience in the fight against corruption,” Kerry said.
“Ten years later, we remain deeply troubled that the mystery of who ordered the murder is still unsolved. We continue to call on Russia, as we have over the last decade, to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.”
When the U.S. added the Chechen accused of the murder to a visa blacklist last year, Russia retaliated by blacklisting American officials.
“It’s not lost on any of us that the unvarnished truth-telling and investigative journalism to which Klebnikov dedicated his life continues to be under attack in Russia. The space for independent voices in Russian media is rapidly shrinking,” Kerry continued.
“Today of all days, we honor the memory of Paul Klebnikov and the other journalists in Russia who have lost their lives. We call on the Russian government to protect journalists from attacks and to respect fundamental freedoms of expression.”
Reporters Without Borders ranked Russia 148th in its 2014 press freedom survey.
“Russia might have been lower in the index had it not been for the stubbornness and resistance shown by its civil society. But the authorities keep on intensifying the crackdown begun when Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 and are exporting their model throughout the former Soviet Union,” the press-freedom group said. “…Moscow also uses UN bodies and regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its efforts to undermine international standards on freedom of information.”
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Klebnikov’s “reporting on official corruption and graft brought an important focus and attention to these challenging issues.”
“We honor his memory by calling for an end to the impunity for crimes against journalists in Russia. The United States supports the efforts of brave journalists in Russia and around the world who expose corruption and abuse of power,” Hayden said in a statement. “The intimidation and murder of journalists is an affront to free and independent media and all who respect democratic values. We urge the Russian government to protect journalists from such attacks and to respect freedom of expression, in accordance with its international obligations.”