The Russian press said yesterday that Sergei Dubov, 50, was shot through the head on Tuesday, when he broke his own rule of going everywhere with a bodyguard and ventured out alone.
Precisely what lies behind the killing of Mr Dubov, head of the New Times publishing house, is being investigated. But Izvestia quoted one of his aides as saying he had received death threats from gangsters. Another news report said the media magnate, who published the All For You advertising bulletin, the weekly New Times International and Moscow Business Week as well as serious literature, had got himself into debt.
Only this week, Tass news agency reported that the mafia, which already controls much of the Russian economy, was beginning to invade the media, cancelling out much of the freedom of expression won in the fight against Communism. As state subsidies have dried up publishers have had to seek alternative sources of finance and it is possible that Mr Dubov, who in the past bravely resisted pressure to join the Communist Party, had become beholden to an even darker force.
The mafia is now rampant here, as President Boris Yeltsin's adviser, Pyotr Filippov, recognised in a recent report, which predicted that public revulsion at organised crime could bring national socialists to power at the next election. So serious is the situation that, as soon as a private businessman opens a shop or even a bank account, he can expect a visit from armed racketeers demanding up to 20 per cent of his turnover.
Ironically, the hoods use the very pages of advertising newspapers such as All For You to find out who is selling what, so that they can 'tax' them appropriately.
Mr Dubov was killed by a single bullet, shot by a single assailant standing in a telephone box. But an increasingly popular method of assassination is bombing. This week, official figures were published showing that 83 people were killed and 328 injured in 545 bomb attacks in 1993. The latest victim - although he survived - was Vladimir Felichkin, a police press officer who had spoken on television about corruption and who was awoken at four o'clock in the morning at his home. Fortunately, he did not answer immediately but went to fetch his dressing-gown. As he did so, his doorway was rocked by a powerful explosion.