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Kremlin Sacks Police Chief After Journalist’s Death In Custody

Journalist Konstantin Popov died after being beaten in police custody.

Journalist Konstantin Popov died after being beaten in police custody.

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The Kremlin has sacked a regional police chief after a journalist died of injuries sustained in custody, one of a string of scandals involving violence and corruption in the force, news agencies reported.

Konstantin Popov, 47, died on January 20 after being beaten in police custody in early January in the Siberian city of Tomsk, about 3,100 kilometers east of Moscow. His colleagues say he was tortured.

The chief of the Tomsk police force, General Viktor Grechman, was fired on the orders of President Dmitry Medvedev, state-run news agencies RIA and ITAR-TASS reported, citing Interior Ministry officials.

Medvedev called last month for a major overhaul of the police force, saying misconduct was sparking public anger and undermining the state's authority.

Recent outbursts of police violence, from drunken shooting sprees to bludgeoning a man to death, have added to widely negative perceptions of law enforcement officers in Russia, fuelled by mounting evidence of corruption.

Popov was taken to hospital on January 4 with severe injuries to internal organs after being beaten by an officer in a police holding cell for drunks, investigators said.

The alleged assailant, Alexei Mitayev, 26, has been charged with aggravated assault and abuse of authority, the Prosecutor-General's Investigative Committee said.