updated 9/28/2004 10:56:38 AM ET 2004-09-28T14:56:38

Police in Moscow have detained two Chechen men on suspicion they were involved in the killing of American journalist Paul Klebnikov in the Russian capital, the city police chief said Tuesday.

Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin told the Interfax news agency that police seized three guns from the men detained overnight.

He added that the two suspects had kidnapped an unidentified person prior to the killing of Klebnikov, the editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian edition.

Pavel Klimovskiy, a spokesman for the city police, confirmed the suspects’ detention but wouldn’t elaborate.

Klebnikov, an American of Russian ancestry, was gunned down July 9 outside the magazine’s office in downtown Moscow.

Speculation on the motive has focused on his writing about the murky world of Russian business, and especially on the magazine’s publication this spring of a list of the country’s 100 richest people, which could have drawn unwanted attention to people sensitive about their wealth.

Some commentators said that a Chechen link was also possible, pointing at Klebnikov’s book based on his interviews with Khozh-Akhmed Nukhayev, a former deputy prime minister in the Chechen separatist government, which was published last year.

The book, “Conversations With a Barbarian,” cast Nukhayev and other Chechen rebels in a negative light, and some Russian observers had suggested that it could have provoked the killing.

According to Russian media reports, Nukhayev had a criminal record dating back to Soviet times and in the 1990s was suspected of overseeing Chechen criminal groups that controlled many lucrative businesses in Russia.

After Klebnikov’s killing, his publisher said that he had been vigorously inquiring into one of Russia’s most sensitive issues. Valery Streletsky, head of a publishing house that issued two books by Klebnikov in Russian, said in July that the American was investigating the 1995 killing of prominent Russian TV journalist Vladislav Listyev with the aim of possibly publishing a book.

The slaying of Listyev, who had been named the director of Russia’s most widely watched television network shortly before his death, was attributed to a dispute over millions of dollars (euros) revenues from TV advertising.

Klebnikov, widely known for a book about controversial tycoon Boris Berezovsky, was well regarded for his knowledge of Russia’s business sphere.

In 1996, Berezovsky sued Forbes for libel an article by Klebnikov, complaining it linked him to the murder of Listyev. The suit was withdrawn after Forbes acknowledged there was no evidence of Berezovsky’s involvement.

Klebnikov was described by relatives and colleagues as optimistic about Russia’s development, but his killing underlined the violence that troubles the nation’s business circles.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed Russia as one of the world’s 10 most hazardous countries for reporters.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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