Supreme Court upholds acquittal in Kholodov murder case

New York, March 16, 2005—In a major setback in the decade-long quest to bring the killers of slain Russian journalist Dimitry Kholodov to justice, the Military Collegium of Russia’s Supreme Court on Monday upheld a June 2004 acquittal of six military officers accused of murdering Kholodov.

Kholodov, a reporter for the Moscow-based independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, was killed in October 1994 after criticizing then Defense Minister Pavel Grachev. Two separate trials failed to lead to convictions for the suspects.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Prosecutor General’s Office and the journalist’s parents, Yuri Kholodov and Zoya Kholodova, who had appealed the June 2004 acquittal by the Moscow Military District Court, according to local press reports. At the Moscow Military District Court trial, the prosecutors alleged that the defendants killed Kholodov on the orders of Grachev.

The journalist’s parents said they were outraged by Monday’s ruling and would appeal the case to the Strasbourg, France–-based European Court for Human Rights.

Dmitry Kholodov, 27, was killed at his office on October 17, 1994, when he opened a briefcase he had received from a source. Kholodov wrote extensively about corruption in the Russian military and had been told that the briefcase contained secret documents exposing corruption in the military’s highest ranks.

The six defendants in Kholodov’s murder case were acquitted in two separate trials in June 2002 and June 2004. The defendants were 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.

This lawless climate continues today. Eleven journalists have been slain in contract-style murders in the last four years alone.