Mr. Listyev, the executive director of Russian Public Television, operator of the national Ostankino TV network, was shot dead in the entryway of his Moscow apartment building in late February. Almost immediately, news reports labeled the crime an assassination linked to battles for power and money in Russia's still-new advertising marketplace.
It will take time for Russian authorities to piece together what happened. And it will require courage for Russian and Western ad people to cooperate with that investigation, given the present state of fear in crime-plagued Moscow.
Russian Public Television Chairman Alexander Yakovlev says Mr. Listyev and others with the company had received threatening telephone calls in the days before the murder. Prior to the crime, Russian Public Television had established a new company to handle its ad sales, a move that reportedly threatened to freeze out a group of Russian ad agencies, which until then had handled time sales for the Ostankino network.
The Russian Advertising Council, a trade lobbying group composed of agencies and advertisers, has denied any agency complicity in the Listyev murder.
Western ad associations should publicly insist on a thorough and complete investigation-no matter where it leads. And they should encourage Western companies that do business with Ostankino and the Russian ad agencies to cooperate as fully as possible. Gangsterism has infiltrated business in other nations, including the U.S., in the past; it can be rooted out.
A competitive and professional Russian advertising community offers many benefits to Russia and its citizens, as well as the international business community. It's essential the Western ad community do whatever it can to help build that in Russia. Mr. Listyev's tragic death may be a sign of just how far Russia has to go.