Court acquits suspects in journalist’s murder for a second time

New York, June 11, 2004—Yesterday the Moscow Military District Court again acquitted the six suspects in the October 1994 murder of Dmitry Kholodov, a popular journalist for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. The trial is the second one in the case.

On June 26, 2002, the same court fully acquitted the defendants—former intelligence officers Pavel Popovskikh, Vladimir Morozov, Aleksandr Soroka, and Konstantin Mirzayants; the deputy head of a security firm, Aleksandr Kapuntsov; and businessman Konstantin Barkovsky—of killing Kholodov. On May 28, 2003, the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court overturned the June 2002 ruling on the grounds that the Moscow Military District Court had not taken into account all the available evidence, and ordered a second trial.

According to local and international reports, Prosecutor Irina Aleshina told the Itartass news agency that the state will appeal yesterday’s verdict. “I completely disagree with the court ruling, which was an exact copy of [the last] verdict,” she said. Kholodov’s father, Yury Kholodov, said he intends to appeal the decision before the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights.

“A full decade after Dimitry Kholodov’s murder took place, his killers remain unpunished,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “Failure to solve such crimes against journalists encourages a culture of impunity for those who target the Russian press for its work.”


On Oct. 17, 1994, Dimitry Kholodov, a 27-year-old investigative reporter for Moskovsky Komsomolets, was killed in his newspaper’s office when he opened a booby-trapped briefcase he received from a source at Moscow’s Kazansky railroad station. Kholodov, who wrote extensively about corruption in the Russian military, had been told that the case contained secret documents exposing corruption in the military’s highest ranks.

The official murder investigation, which progressed slowly, drew extensive criticism from Kholodov’s colleagues and the Russian public. Five of the defendants were arrested in 1998, four years after the murder, and the sixth one—Konstantin Mirzayants—was arrested in 1999.

The initial trial in the case began in November 2000 and lasted 18 months.