David Frum

03.25.13

Who Killed Paul Klebnikov?

Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images ()

In the early 1990s, I worked at Forbes magazine, occupying the very next office to Paul Klebnikov, a reporter who specialized in the story of Russia's market opening (as we then hoped it would be). Paul spoke Russian, cared passionately about the country. When Forbes launched a Russian-language edition, Paul was the natural choice to head it. In Russia, Paul showed himself as fearless and energetic as in New York City. Only … in Russia, those qualities in a journalist marked a man for savage reprisal rather. Paul was murdered in Moscow in 2004, aged 41. Nobody has yet been brought to justice for the crime.

Forbes today publishes an obituary of sorts for the man who may well have hired Paul's murderers. Please follow the link to read the whole thing.

Paul Klebnikov’s body was barely cold on July 9, 2004, when Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky whipped out his tongue from its holster and publicly called the 41-year-old editor of Forbes-Russia “a dishonest reporter.” It was an odious thing to say, not least because Paul’s family was only starting to digest the news that he’d been shot nine times from a semiautomatic pistol as he walked out of his Moscow office. He survived a ride in an ambulance that wasn’t equipped with functioning oxygen equipment, but apparently died in a “stuck” elevator at a Moscow hospital.

Yesterday it was Berezovsky’s turn — his body was found in his locked bathroom in his mansion in England. A day earlier, he gave the last interview of his life, ironically enough to Forbes-Russia, where he told the reporter in a London hotel lobby that he had nothing to live for. And while it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead so soon after they expire, I think the 67-year-old oligarch has earned an exception here. Klebnikov was (and remains) the only investigative reporter who exposed Berezovsky for what he truly was: a corrupt, dangerous thug, a chronic (court-certified) liar, and – as Paul wrote in Forbes magazine and in a 2000 biography of Boris — the “Godfather of the Kremlin.”