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Russia arrests suspect in 1994 death of journalist

Russian officials announced Thursday night that they had arrested a retired military intelligence official in connection with the killing of an investigative journalist three years ago.

The journalist, Dmitri Kholodov, 27, had been investigating corruption in the Russian military when he was killed by opening a booby-trapped suitcase.His targets included a former defense minister, Gen. Pavel Grachev, and the former commander of Russian troops in Germany, Gen. Matvei Burlakov. Kholodov said Burlakov had engaged in black-marketeering and arms smuggling.

Among his allegations, Kholodov wrote that weapons had been sold illegally to purchase Mercedes sedans in Germany. The cars were then shipped to Moscow, he said, for use by Grachev, who was nicknamed Pasha Mercedes by Moskovsky Komsomolets, the newspaper where Kholodov worked.

In the midst of his investigations, in October 1994, Kholodov received a telephone call urging him to pick up a suitcase from a Moscow train station containing documents about corruption in the Russian military. He brought the suitcase back to his office and was killed when it exploded.

His editors blamed the military and suggested that Grachev was involved in the killing. Other newspapers speculated about plots by corrupt intelligence officers or lower-ranking military officers. Grachev blamed the mafia.

But Thursday's arrest pointed to the military's involvement.

The prosecutor general announced Thursday evening that he had charged a retired colonel, Pavel Popovskikh, with organizing the killing. Popovskikh was director of intelligence for Russia's paratroopers.

The killing of Kholodov produced a huge outpouring. Writers and reform-minded politicians paid their respects at his funeral. Many Russians predicted that his killing, like so many others, would never be solved. The question, however, was who else might be charged.