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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Grachev Denies Ordering Reporter's Murder

Former Defense Minister Pavel Grachev testified in court Monday that he did not order the murder of a journalist investigating corruption in the military, Interfax reported, citing an unnamed courtroom source.

Grachev, who served as defense minister from 1992 to 1996, is the highest-ranking official to testify in the politically charged trial for the murder of Dmitry Kholodov, a 27-year-old reporter for the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets.

Kholodov was investigating allegations of corruption in the army's intelligence service in October 1994 when an anonymous caller told him he could find evidence in a briefcase stored at a train station. Kholodov retrieved the case, and when he opened it at his office, it exploded, killing him and wounding a colleague.

Six men, including five former paratroopers, went on trial for the murder last year. Investigators have suggested that the defendants interpreted Grachev's complaints about Kholodov's articles as a command to murder him, according to Russian media reports.

Grachev told the court that he had asked his subordinates to "sort things out" with journalists who wrote negative things about the army, Interfax said, citing a participant in the court proceedings. The trial is closed to journalists.

But Grachev said he only meant that officials should explain the reasons for the army's problems to journalists to make their reports more professional, Interfax said.

The former minister also said he did not think the paratroopers had anything to do with Kholodov's murder because the murder was "an unprofessional and poorly organized military operation," Interfax quoted the source as saying.

Grachev, who lost his Cabinet post amid broad public outrage over corruption and low morale in the military, left the Moscow military court without addressing reporters.