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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian paratroops chief exonerated by military prosecutors

RIA Novosti

15:32 09/10/2009 MOSCOW, October 9 (RIA Novosti) - Russian military prosecutors said on Friday they would not press charges against the commander of Russia's Airborne Troops.

The Military Prosecutor's Office said Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov had done no wrong.

On Wednesday, Shamanov received an official warning for abuse of office. The warning came after a probe was launched in response to Russian media allegations that Shamanov had ordered a group of paratroopers to impede an investigation at a company owned by his son-in-law, who is on the run as a suspect in a murder investigation.

"I fully agree with the punishment and recognize the illegal nature of my actions. I believe that the minister's decision was just," Shamanov said.

Novaya Gazeta newspaper published transcripts of the general's obscenity-littered telephone conversations to prove his involvement.

Shamanov protested his innocence in an interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily, saying the telephone conversations were taken out of context, which distorted the essence of what had been said.

Novaya Gazeta's editor stood by what the newspaper had published.

"Novaya Gazeta had at its disposal the full phone-tap conversations of all the figures in the case," Sergei Sokolov told RIA Novosti. "Naturally, it is impossible to print them in full - we chose the fragments that directly concerned our investigation. We did not make anything up."

Shamanov said he was the victim of a smear campaign orchestrated by people "in Chechnya and in Moscow."

The Airborne Troops commander suggested that "some Chechen officials" had an axe to grind and could not forgive him his "position on Col. Budanov."

Yury Budanov, who commanded a tank regiment during the second Chechen war, was convicted in the summer of 2003 of strangling an 18-year-old Chechen woman, and was sentenced to 10 years in jail. He was paroled in January 2009.

Shamanov took a high-profile role in pushing for Budanov's early release.

Shamanov, a Hero of Russia and commander of the 76th Airborne Division during the second Chechen War, was appointed commander of the Russian Airborne Troops in May.

Human rights organizations have said troops under Shamanov's command in Chechnya committed atrocities against civilians.

Shamanov met U.S. President George W. Bush in March 2007 as co-chair of a U.S.-Russian commission on servicemen missing in action, a visit that reportedly embarrassed the White House after it learned of the abuse allegations.

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