Once of Russia's best-known television journalists, Vladislav Listyev, was killed tonight in a gangland-style murder in the entryway of his Moscow apartment building, the police said.
Mr. Listyev, 38, made his reputation in the glasnost period when he often sparred on the air with Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet President, who was striving to remove the stifling cloak of official lies that surronded everything here.
Mr. Listyev had recently been named executive director of the reorganized Ostankino television network, a job with major finacncial responsibilities. He supported a ban on advertising on the channel that was announced on February 20 and due to begin April 1. There was immediate speculation tonight that Mr. Listyev, who was shot in the heart and died instantly, was killed over profits, not journalism.
Aleksandr Yakovlev, a former Poliburo member under Mr. Gorbachev and chairman of the board of the channel, told the Itar-Tass news agency tonight that he himself had begun recieving telephone threats after the decision to stop showing advertisements. "We must have got in someone's way," Mr. Yakovlev said, expressing shock at Mr. Listyev's killing.
Mr. Yakovlev said that Russian public television recently changed its methods of selling advertisements, creating an in-house agency that multiplied the company's advertising revenues seven times, from $1.1 million a month to $7.8 million.
"The difference must have ended up in the pockets of some moguls," Mr. Yakovlev said.
But then the company decided to suspend showing advertising altogether.
Mr. Listyev was one of three people behind the hard-hitting news program, Vzglyad, or Viewpoint. More recently, he was the host of Chas Pik, or Rush Hour, an interview show modeled on CNN's Larry King Live.
The last several months brought many changes to Ostankin, the biggest state television channel that reaches across the entire former Soviet Union. Last November, President Boris N. Yeltsin made Ostankino Channel One into Russian public television, but the state kept a controlling 51 percent share.
The remaining shares were offered to a select group of companies including Itar-Tass, Aeroflot International Airlines and commercial banks including Menatep, Stolichny, Inkombmak and Roscredit.
Because of its widespread influence, who controls Russian public television is considered crucial to winning the parliamentary elections scheduled for December and the presidential vote scheduled for June 1996. Mr. Yakovlev has spoken in the past of intense political pressure, saying : "Unfortunately, people think that to take the Kremlin, they must first take Ostankino."
Igor Shabdrasulov, a Government representative on the board, said the ban on advertising was intended "to determine the proper correlation between advertising on the one hand and the interests of economic development and moral criteria on the other." He said that during the ban, losses would be offset by private shareholders.
The day after the ban was announced, Mr. Yeltsin announced a nationwide ban on advertisng tobacco and alcohol products and ads for popular faith healers. But enforecement is likely to be difficult.
Anatoly Lysenko, director-general of the state-owned Russan Radio and Television Company, or Channel 2, warned against the ban, saying that advertising accounts for a third of revenues, and companies like Ostankino would be hard-pressed to come up with the lost money.
Tonight, Channel 2 began its newscast with a moment of silence for Mr. Listyev, with the anchor breaking the silence to ask: "Who will be next?"