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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grachev Denies Role In Reporter's Slaying

While Moscow journalists Tuesday expressed their horror and dismay over the killing of a reporter investigating corruption in the army, Defense Minister Pavel Grachev dismissed allegations that his ministry had been involved in his death.

Dmitry Kholodov, an investigative reporter for the popular daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, was killed Monday by an explosive device concealed in a briefcase he had collected from the baggage check at Kazansky railway station. The blast wrecked his office and injured another reporter.

"Journalists are being subjected to political and economic pressure, including terror by criminal structures," a statement by the Journalists' Union said.

Kholodov had collected the briefcase after receiving a call from a contact at the Federal Counterintelligence Service, who had told him that it contained official documents relating to illegal arms deals in the Western Group of the Russian Army, according to the editor in chief of Moskovsky Komsomolets, Pavel Gusev. Reacting to the death Monday, Gusev said all clues pointed to involvement by the Defense Ministry, charges he repeated Tuesday.

But Defense Minister Pavel Grachev dismissed the notion Tuesday that his ministry had been involved in any way.

"We consider these accusations as groundless and see in it as an sacrilegious attempt of some political forces to use the tragedy to stir up anti-army hysteria," Itar-Tass quoted Grachev as saying.

Grachev said he had known that Kholodov was investigating allegations of corruption in the Western Group and expressed his determination that "all facts connected with the death" should be made known.

Gusev said Kholodov had recently visited a secret army unit, run by the Main Intelligence Department, which trained commandos in assassination. He said the newspaper would publish details Wednesday.

Robert Bykov, a retired colonel who helped Kholodov with his investigation, told The Moscow Times that Kholodov had published his first article about the Western Group in February 1994, with only a passing mention of corruption.

"He asked me to give him more material about the financial operations in this army group," he said. "I told him it was very dangerous and that even I keep out of it."

Bykov said after several more articles his and Kholodov's telephone lines had been tapped.

"When we mentioned the names of Grachev and others during telephone conversations the line was disconnected," he said.

Bykov said the main accusation published by Kholodov against the Western Group's leadership was the illegal sale of Antonov-72 planes, MI-8 helicopters and several thousand tanks to different states.

"What happened to him was inevitable," Bykov said.

The former chief of staff of the Western Group, Matvei Burlakov, who was also linked by Gusev to the killings, rejected Kholodov's allegations Tuesday. Itar-Tass quoted him as saying the only weapons missing from the group since 1946 were 62 handguns.