MOSCOW, September 23 (RIA Novosti) - A top Russian military official on Wednesday denied media allegations of abuse of office as part of a smear campaign against him.
Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has ordered a probe into media reports alleging that Airborne Troops commander Lt. Gen. Vladimir Shamanov sent a group of paratroopers to impede an investigation at a company owned by his son-in-law, who is wanted in Russia on murder charges.
Novaya Gazeta newspaper published transcripts of the general's telephone conversations to show 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.
He refused to elaborate.
Novaya Gazeta's editor on Wednesday 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."
"It is possible to listen to the telephone conversations on the newspaper's web site," he added.
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.
Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said on Wednesday that Shamanov would remain in office and that no action would be taken with regard to him until after the probe was completed.
He warned against "hasty and unjustified decisions" that could "cast a shadow over a respectable person."
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.