MOSCOW (AP) – In the weeks before Paul Klebnikov was shot to death on a Moscow street, the American journalist had begun investigating the 1995 killing of a Russian TV reporter, a publisher said Friday, while a newspaper said he may also have been looking into a second slaying.

The new information indicated Klebnikov may have been vigorously inquiring into one of Russia’s most sensitive issues. The Committee to Protect Journalists has listed Russia as one of the world’s 10 most hazardous countries for reporters. In the first days after the July 9 murder of Klebnikov, relatives and associates of the editor of Forbes magazine’s Russian edition said they were unaware he was looking into matters that could have prompted violent retaliation.

However, Valery Streletsky, head of a publishing house that issued two books by Klebnikov in Russian, said Friday the American was investigating the shooting death of TV journalist Vladislav Listyev with the aim of possibly publishing a book on the case.

Listyev’s slaying was a severe shock to Russia as it suffered through post-Soviet economic chaos and business violence. Streletsky told The Associated Press he believed Klebnikov was at least two to three years away from putting the book together and said he thought it unlikely the fledgling investigation was the motive behind the killing near Forbes’ Moscow office.

But the newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti indicated he could have been casting his net wider. The newspaper cited lawyer Karen Nesirsian as saying he had received a call from Klebnikov in early July in which the American “said that he intended to prepare a series of stories about the killings of journalists in Russia.”

It identified Nesirsian as an attorney for a suspect in last year’s killing of Alexei Sidorov, editor of a newspaper in the Volga River city of Togliatti.

Sidorov’s predecessor was shot to death a year earlier.

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

Berezovsky sued Forbes for libel over a 1996 article by Klebnikov, complaining it connected him with the murder of Listyev. The suit was withdrawn after Forbes acknowledged there was no evidence of Berezovsky’s involvement.

Listyev became highly popular as host of a news and talk show that exemplified Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms. Two months before his killing, he was named executive director of Russia’s most widely watched broadcast channel; he was in charge of reforming its advertising, where millions of dollars allegedly had been skimmed off.

Klebnikov’s brothers, who came to Moscow for a memorial service this week and to accompany his body to New York for burial, said they were unaware that he was working on any sensitive matters.

Media speculation on the motive for the killing focused on Forbes’ publication this spring of a list of the 100 richest people in Russia, saying that could have brought unwelcome attention to figures who had become wealthy by shadowy means.

Klebnikov was described by relatives and colleagues as optimistic about Russia’s development, but his killing underlined the violence that still troubles its business circles and drew attention to the country’s shabby medical services.

Russian news reports said the ambulance that came to the scene had no oxygen supplies and quoted a colleague who accompanied him to the hospital as saying the elevator to the operating room was stuck for several minutes.

“I don’t know how long it stood without movement, it seemed to me about 10 minutes. I tried to get the attention of workers, I knocked on doors, ran around – all uselessly,” Mikhail Fishman of the Russian edition of Newsweek told the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The newspaper Kommersant quoted Fishman as saying a doctor told him Klebnikov had died in the elevator.

AP-ES-07-16-04 1738EDT

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