. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police to Form Unit on Contract Killings

In the wake of the contract murder of prominent television producer Oleg Slabynko, the Moscow police this weekend announced that they will form a new department to combat high-profile murders and contract killings.

According to Alexander Petrenko, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, a new department will be formed within a month to work with existing departments on high profile cases such as the murders of television personality Vladislav Listyev, Moskovsky Komsomolets journalist Dmitry Kholodov and Slabynko.

"We don't know what it will be called yet, but the department will be made up of homicide investigators from every department of the police," Petrenko said. "Its job will be mainly one of coordinating investigations and accumulating leads from various sources."

Interior Ministry chief Nikolai Kulikov Friday took the extreme step of setting up a special task force to investigate the murder of Slabynko, 34, the producer of the talk show "Moment of Truth," who was gunned down in his home Thursday night.

"Hopefully, after the creation of the new department, we won't have to create special task forces, but will instead have a standing staff to handle such cases," said Petrenko.

Petrenko added that the new department was necessitated by a sharp rise in contract murder in the city.

"Although murder on the whole went down in 1995, contract murder is going up," he said. There were 216 contract killings in Moscow in 1995, as opposed to 181 in 1994.

Police were still searching Monday for the three masked men who entered Slabynko's home on Klinskaya Ulitsa Thursday night and shot him with 9-millimeter pistols.

"There is no concrete information to release yet," Petrenko said.

Slabynko, who as a former director of the Ostankino television network was the immediate predecessor of the murdered Vladislav Listyev, had in recent times been best known for his work with "Moment of Truth." The talk show was one of the most popular in the country, known mainly for the hard-hitting, abrasive interviews conducted by its host, Andrei Karaulov.

Russian observers speculating on the motives behind Slabynko's killing have focused on two main possibilities: That at Ostankino he had somehow become involved in the big-money advertising deals which were rumored to be the cause of Listyev's death, or that he had been killed as a warning to the contentious Karaulov.

In an odd twist, Karaulov as of Monday was apparently still unaware of Slabynko's murder, as he was on vacation on a cruise in the Black Sea.

Denis Gudin, general director of "Moment of Truth," said his office was in a state of shock.

"We don't know anything," he said. "The Prosecutor's Office has been by, but they didn't fill us in. There have been rumors about it being connected to his work at Ostankino, but we don't have any information and couldn't support such statements."

Boris Uvarov of the general Prosecutor's office, a former chief investigator on the Listyev case, said he knew of no connection between Listyev and Slabynko.

"I don't know of any connection between those murders," he said. "It's too early to speculate."

, and that he had no idea what anyone's motives could have been for killing Slabynko