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|Russian apartment bombings|
|Date||4–16 September 1999|
|More than 1,000|
|This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia's quality standards. The specific problem is: Requires clean-up of structure, grammar and style.. (March 2013)|
|Russian apartment bombings|
|Date||4–16 September 1999|
|More than 1,000|
The Russian apartment bombings were a series of explosions that hit four apartment blocks in the Russian cities of Buynaksk, Moscow, and Volgodonsk in September 1999, killing 293 people and injuring 651. The explosions occurred in Buynaksk on September 4, Moscow on September 9th and 14th, and Volgodonsk on September 16. Several other bombs were defused in Moscow at the time.
A similar bomb was found and defused in the Russian city of Ryazan on September 22, 1999. Two days later, Federal Security Service (FSS) Director Nikolai Patrushev announced that the Ryazan incident had been a training exercise. This led some, such as Alexander Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya, to speculate that the apartment bombings had been carried out by the Russian secret service FSB (formerly KGB).
Together with the Invasion of Dagestan launched from Chechnya in August 1999 by Islamist militia led by Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab, the bombings caused the Russian Federation to launch the Second Chechen War.
Although on September 2, 1999, the militia commander Ibn Al-Khattab announced that "The mujahideen of Dagestan are going to carry out reprisals in various places across Russia," on September 14 he denied responsibility for the blasts, adding that he was fighting the Russian army, not women and children.
An official investigation of the bombings was completed by the FSS in 2002. According to the investigation and the court ruling that followed, the bombings had been organised by Achemez Gochiyaev, who remained at large as of 2013, and had been ordered by Ibn Al-Khattab and Abu Omar al-Saif, who were later killed. Six other suspects have been convicted by Russian courts.
State Duma member Yuri Shchekochikhin filed two motions for a parliamentary investigation of the events, but the motions were rejected by the Duma in March 2000. An independent public commission to investigate the bombings was chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev. The commission was rendered ineffective because of government refusal to respond to its inquiries. The Commission's lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin was arrested for exposing classified information.
Although there had been little evidence for their claims Yury Felshtinsky, Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Berezovsky (an oligarch in British exile), David Satter, Boris Kagarlitsky, Vladimir Pribylovsky, and the secessionist Chechen authorities claimed that the 1999 bombings were a false flag attack coordinated by different special services (they mentioned either FSB or GRU) in order either to blackmail each other or to win public support for a new full-scale war in Chechnya, which boosted Prime Minister and former FSB Director Vladimir Putin's popularity, and brought the pro-war Unity Party to the State Duma and Putin to the presidency within a few months.
Gordon Bennett from Conflict Studies Research Centre, Robert Bruce Ware, Paul J. Murphy, Henry Plater-Zyberk, Simon Saradzhyan, Nabi Abdullaev and Richard Sakwa criticised the conspiracy theory, pointing out problems such as the lack of evidence.
A Finnish journalist[who?] who in mid-August 1999, before the bombings, traveled to the village of Karamakhi in Dagestan, interviewed some villagers and their military Commander General Dzherollak. The journalist wrote:
According to the journalist, the Wahhabis had told him, "if they start bombing us, we know where our bombs will explode." In the last days of August, the Russian military launched an aerial bombing of the villages.
Five apartment bombings took place and at least three attempted bombings were prevented. All bombing had the same "signature", judging from the nature and the volume of the destruction. In each case the explosive RDX was used, and the timers were set to go off at night and inflict the maximum number of civilian casualties. The explosives were placed to destroy the weakest, most critical elements of the buildings and force the buildings to "collapse like a house of cards". The terrorists were able to obtain or manufacture several tons of powerful explosives and deliver them to numerous destinations across Russia.
On August 31, 1999, at 20:00 local time (8:00 PM), an explosion took place in "Okhotny Ryad" shopping center on Manezhnaya Square, Moscow. One person was killed and 40 others injured. According to FSB, the explosion had been caused by a bomb of about 300 grams (0.66 lb) of explosives. On 2 September 1999 an organisation named "The Liberation Army of Dagestan" (Russian: Освободительная Армия Дагестана) claimed responsibility for the explosion and threatened to continue terrorist acts until Russian Army left Dagestan. According to FSB, the explosion was ordered by Chechen leader Shamil Basayev who had financial disagreements with the owner of "Okhotny Ryad" shopping center, Chechen businessman Umar Dzhabrailov.
On September 4, 1999, at 22:00 (18:00 GMT), a car bomb detonated outside a five-story apartment building in the city of Buynaksk in Dagestan, near the border of Chechnya. The building was housing Russian border guard soldiers and their families. 64 people were killed and 133 were injured in the explosion. Another car bomb was found and defused in the same town. The defused bomb was in a car containing 2,706 kilograms (5,966 lb) of explosives. It was discovered by local residents in a parking lot surrounded by an army hospital and residential buildings.
On September 9, 1999, shortly after midnight local time, at 20:00 GMT, 300 to 400 kg of explosives detonated on the ground floor of an apartment building in south-east Moscow (19 Guryanova Street). The nine-story building was destroyed, killing 94 people inside and injuring 249 others. 15 nearby buildings were also damaged. A total of 108 apartments were destroyed during the bombing. An FSB spokesman identified the explosive as RDX. Residents said a few minutes before the blast four men were seen speeding away from the building in a car.
The President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin ordered the search of 30,000 residential buildings in Moscow for explosives. He took personal control of the investigation of the blast. Vladimir Putin declared 13 September a day of mourning for the victims of the attacks.
On September 13, 1999, at 5:00 a.m., a large bomb exploded in a basement of an apartment block on Kashirskoye Highway in southern Moscow, about 6 km from the place of the last attack. 119 people died and 200 were injured. This was the deadliest blast in the chain of bombings. The eight-story building was flattened, littering the street with debris and throwing some concrete pieces hundreds of meters away.
According to FSB public relations director Alexander Zdanovich and Oksana Yablokova of The Moscow Times, official investigators defused explosives on Borisovskiye Prudy street in Moscow 14 September 1999. Yuri Felshtinsky and Alexander Litvinenko added a site in the Liublino district and another in Kapotnya to the list of caches. Satter wrote that three attempted bombings were prevented.
According to the messages received by Yuri Felshtinsky and by Prima News agency from someone claiming to be Achemez Gochiyaev, on September 13, 1999, a bomb was defused in a building in the Kapotnya area. A warehouse containing several tons of explosives and six timing devices was found at Borisovskiye Prudy. The author of the messages wrote that he called the police and warned about the bombing locations, which helped to prevent a large number of further casualties. Gochiyaev or his impersonators claimed that he was framed by his old acquaintance, an FSB officer who asked him to rent basements "as storage facilities" at four locations where bombs were later found.
A truck bomb exploded on September 16, 1999, outside a nine-story apartment complex in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk, killing 17 people and injuring 69. The bombing took place at 5:57 am. Surrounding buildings were also damaged. The blast also happened nine miles from a nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Putin signed a decree calling on law enforcement and other agencies to develop plans within three days to protect industry, transportation, communications, food processing centres and nuclear complexes.
At 8:30 P.M. on September 22, 1999, a resident of an apartment building in the city of Ryazan noticed two suspicious men who carried sacks into the basement from a car with a Moscow license plate. He alerted the police, but by the time they arrived the car and the men were gone. The policemen found three 50 kg sacks of white powder in the basement. A detonator and a timing device were attached and armed. The timer was set to 5:30 AM. Yuri Tkachenko, the head of the local bomb squad, disconnected the detonator and the timer and tested the three sacks of white substance with a "MO-2" gas analyser. The device detected traces of RDX, the military explosive used in all previous bombings. Police and rescue vehicles converged from different parts of the city, and 30,000 residents were evacuated from the area. 1,200 local police officers armed with automatic weapons set up roadblocks on highways around the city and started patrolling railroad stations and airports to hunt the terrorists down.
At 1:30 A.M. on September 23, the explosive engineers took a bit of substance from the suspicious-looking sacks to a firing ground located some kilometres (about a mile) away from Ryazan for testing. During the substance tests at that area they tried to explode it by means of a detonator, but their efforts failed, the substance was not detonated, and the explosion did not occur. At 5 A.M. Radio Rossiya reported about the attempted bombing, noting that the bomb was set up to go off at 5:30 A.M. In the morning, "Ryazan resembled a city under siege". Composite sketches of three suspected terrorists, two men and a woman, were posted everywhere in the city and shown on TV. At 8:00 A.M. Russian television reported the attempt to blow out the building in Ryzan and identified the explosive used in the bomb as RDX. Vladimir Rushailo announced later that police prevented a terrorist act. A news block at 4 p.m. reported that the explosives failed to detonate during their testing outside the city
At 7 P.M. Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the Ryazanians and called for the air bombing of the Chechen capital, Grozny in response to the terrorism acts. He said:
|“||If the sacks which proved to contain explosive were noticed, that means there is a positive side to it, if only the fact that the public is reacting correctly to the events taking place in our country today. I'd like ...to thank the public... No panic, no sympathy for the bandits.||”|
Later, the same evening, a telephone service employee in Ryazan tapped into long distance phone conversations and managed to detect a talk in which an out-of-town person suggested to others that they "split up" and "make your own way out". That person's number was traced to a telephone exchange unit serving FSB offices. When arrested, the detainees produced FSB identification cards. They were soon released on orders from Moscow.
On September 24, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev announced that the exercise was carried out to test responses after the earlier blasts. The Ryazan FSB "reacted with fury" and issued a statement saying:
|“||This announcement came as a surprise to us and appeared at the moment when the ...FSB had identified the places of residence in Ryazan of those involved in planting the explosive device and was prepared to detain them.||”|
FSB issued a public apology about the incident.
The Russia's General Prosecutor's Office, answering a parliamentary inquiry about apartment bombings in 2002 reported that
|“||The investigation showed that to execute certain theses of the mutual order issued by the FSB Director and Russia's Minister of Internal Affairs about performing the Vortex-Antiterror operation, command of a special FSB unit approved a plan/task in September 20, 1999, which implied assembling groups of fake terrorists to be sent into certain regional cities, with the aim to test the security protection of vital infrastructure objects and apartments houses and to evaluate efficiency of undertaken special investigative techniques and regime measures. |
A team of three was assigned to enter Ryazan, study the current situation, and evaluate measures taken by the local law enforcement bodies to counteract possible terrorist acts. They were also to select convenient places to perform a "diversion" (apartments of the ground floor and the floor above in apartment houses, underground or different rooms in inhabited buildings), buy from three to five sacks of sugar and store them at the selected place, and manufacture mock-ups of explosive detonators to be placed on the sacks.
The team arrived in Ryazan on September 20, 1999, in a VAZ-2107 car. During the day of September 21, 1999 they studied the city, the local situation and selected the required object. They chose the house 14/16 at Novosyolov Street, since it matched their task the best — there were a local police office and a big store nearby, and the entrance door to the basement was broken. On the morning of September 22, 1999, at a local market, they bought three sacks of sugar, and batteries and clocks with which to manufacture a mock detonator. In the "Kolchuga" store they bought a 12-gauge shotgun cartridge. At about 9 PM, the sacks of sugar were delivered to the house and brought into the basement; the mock detonator was installed on one of sacks...
Investigation showed that ... operation in the city of Ryazan was not planned and carried out in the proper way, in particular, the question about limits of this action was not regulated, and there was no provision for informing local [security] bodies or police about the training nature of the installation in case it was unveiled.
Along with that, actions of FSB employees did not have dangerous consequences for the society and did not lead to violations of rights and interests secured by the Law.
There are a number of difficulties connected with this explanation. The statement suggests that the Director of the FSB Nikolai Patrushev and the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vladimir Rushailo, had issued an order on September 20 to send fake terrorists into certain regional cities. On September 24 the same Vladimir Rushailo addressed the First All-Russian Congress for Combating Organised Crime, speaking about a terrorist attack that had been thwarted in Ryazan and said that “a number of serious miscalculations have been made in the activities of the agenices of the interior” and that “harsh conclusions” had been drawn. Having pointed out the miscalculations of the agencies that had failed to spot the explosives being planted, Rushailo followed Putin in praising the people of Ryazan who had managed to foil the terrorist attack. 
There are a number of reasons why the planting of sacks in the apartment building in Ryazan could not have been an exercise. It would have been compulsory for the head of the local FSB, Alexander Sergeiev, to be notified of a planned exercise. This means that Patrushev and Sergeiev must have already known on September 22 about any “exercise” which was due to be conducted. Patrushev did not issue an order to that effect until September 24.
If the FSB were to carry out a check on the Ryazan police, it has to be a joint exercise with the MVD, and the appropriate officials of the MVD in the centre and the provinces have to be notified. If the exercise affects the civilian population, then the civil defence service and the MCHS are also involved. In all cases, a joint plan of the exercise has to be drawn up and signed by the heads of all the relevant departments. Exercises may be made as close as possible to real situations, such as exercises involving live shelling. However, it is absolutely forbidden to conduct exercises in which people might be hurt, or which might pose a threat of damage to the environment. There is a specific prohibition on holding exercises that involve members of the armed services and military units on active service.
Active service differs from an exercise in that during periods of duty military goals are pursued with the use of live weapons. On September 22–23, 1999, the police patrols on the streets of Ryazan were on active service, carrying weapons and special equipment, which they were entitled to use to detain FSB operatives planting sacks in the basement of an apartment building. The entire police force of the city was operating in response to the real threat of terrorist attacks, which meant that FSB operatives involved in unannounced exercises could have been shot.
According to Litvinenko, the car used by the FSB was registered with the police as missing. An exercise could not have been conducted legally using a stolen car. Under the terms of the law on the FSB, the service’s operatives have no right to commit a crime, even in pursuit of military objectives.
Finally, exercises cannot be held without observers, who objectively assess the results of the exercise and then draw up reports on its successes and failures, apportion praise and blame, and then draw conclusions. There were no observers in Ryazan.
The Russian Deputy Prosecutor declared in 2002 that a comprehensive testing of the samples showed no traces of any explosives, and that sacks from Ryazan contained only sugar. However Yuri Tkachenko, the police explosives expert who defused the Ryazan bomb, insisted that it was real. Tkachenko said that the explosives, including a timer, a power source, and a detonator were genuine military equipment and obviously prepared by a professional. He also said that the gas analyser that tested the vapours coming from the sacks unmistakably indicated the presence of RDX. Tkachenko said that it was out of the question that the analyser could have malfunctioned, as the gas analyser was of world class quality, cost $20,000, and was maintained by a specialist who worked according to a strict schedule, checking the analyser after each use and making frequent prophylactic checks. Tkachenko pointed out that meticulous care in the handling of the gas analyser was a necessity because the lives of the bomb squad experts depended on the reliability of their equipment. The police officers who answered the original call and discovered the bomb also insisted that it was obvious from its appearance that the substance in the bomb was not sugar.
At a press conference on the occasion of the Federal Security Service Employee Day in December 2001, Yury Tkachenko, the police explosives expert who defused the Ryazan bomb, said that the gas analyser had not been used. He added that the detonator was a hunting cartridge and that it would not be able to detonate any known explosives.
It was initially reported by the FSB that the explosives used by the terrorists was RDX (or "hexogen"). However, it was officially declared later that the explosive was not RDX, but a mixture of aluminium powder, nitre (saltpeter), sugar, and TNT prepared by the perpetrators in a concrete mixer at a fertiliser factory in Urus-Martan, Chechnya. RDX is produced in only one factory in Russia, in the city of Perm. According to Satter, the FSB changed the story about the type of explosive, since it was difficult to explain how huge amounts of RDX disappeared from the closely guarded Perm facility.
In March 2000, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported the account of Private Alexei Pinyaev of the 137th Regiment who guarded a military facility near the city of Ryazan. He was surprised to see that "a storehouse with weapons and ammunition" contained sacks with the word "sugar" on them. The two paratroopers cut a hole in one of the bags and made tea with the sugar taken from the bag. But the taste of the tea was terrible. They became suspicious since people were talking about the explosions. The substance turned out to be hexogen. After the newspaper report, FSB officers "descended on Pinyaev's unit", accused them of "divulging a state secret" and told them, "You guys can't even imagine what serious business you've got yourselves tangled up in." The regiment later sued publishers of Novaya Gazeta for insulting the honour of the Russian Army, since there was no Private Alexei Pinyaev in the regiment, according to their statement. At an FSB press conference, Private Pinyaev stated that there was no hexogen in the 137th Airborne Regiment and that he was hospitalised in December 1999 and no longer visited the range.
On September 13, just hours after the second explosion in Moscow, Russian Duma speaker Gennadiy Seleznyov of the Communist Party made an announcement: "I have just received a report. According to information from Rostov-on-Don, an apartment building in the city of Volgodonsk was blown up last night". However, the bombing in Volgodonsk took place three days later, on 16 September. When the Volgodonsk bombing happened, Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded an explanation in the Duma, but Seleznev turned his microphone off. Vladimir Zhirinovsky said in the Russian Duma: "Remember, Gennadiy Nikolaevich, how you told us that a house has been blown up in Volgodonsk, three days prior to the blast? How should we interpret this? The State Duma knows that the house was destroyed on Monday, and it has indeed been blown up on Thursday [same week]... How come... the state authorities of Rostov region were not warned in advance [about the future bombing], although it was reported to us? Everyone is sleeping, the house was destroyed three days later, and now we must take urgent measures..." [Seleznev turned his microphone off].
Two years later, in March 2002, Seleznyov claimed in an interview that he had been referring to an unrelated hand grenade-based explosion, which did not kill anyone and did not destroy any buildings, and which indeed happened in Volgodonsk. It remains unclear why Seleznyov reported such an insignificant incident to the Russian Parliament and why he did not explain the misunderstanding to Zhirinovsky and other Duma members.
FSB defector Alexander Litvinenko described this as "the usual Kontora mess up": "Moscow-2 was on the 13th and Volgodonsk on 16th, but they got it to the speaker the other way around," he said. Investigator Mikhail Trepashkin confirmed that the man who gave Seleznev the note was indeed an FSB officer.
The Russian Duma rejected two motions for parliamentary investigation of the Ryazan incident. The Duma, on a pro-Kremlin party-line vote, voted to seal all materials related to the Ryazan incident for the next 75 years and forbade an investigation into what happened.
The commission of Sergei Kovalev asked lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin to investigate the case. M. Trepashkin found that the basement of one of the bombed buildings was rented by FSB officer Vladimir Romanovich and that the latter was witnessed by several people. Trepashkin was unable to bring the evidence to court because he was arrested by FSB in October 2003 and imprisoned in Nizhny Tagil, allegedly for "disclosing state secrets", just a few days before he was to make his findings public. He was sentenced by a military closed court to a four-year imprisonment. Amnesty International issued a statement that, "[T]here are serious grounds to believe that Mikhail Trepashkin was arrested and convicted under falsified criminal charges". Romanovich subsequently died in a hit and run accident in Cyprus. According to Mr Trepashkin, his supervisors and FSB members promised not to arrest him if he left the Kovalev commission and started working with the FSB "against Alexander Litvinenko".
In a letter to Olga Konskaya Mr Trepashkin wrote that some time before the bombings Moscow's Regional Directorate against Organized Crimes (RUOP GUVD) arrested several people with regards to selling an explosive RDX. Following that, Nikolai Patrushev's Directorate of FSB officers came to the GUVD headquarters, captured evidence and ordered to fire the investigators. Mr Trepashkin wrote that he learned about the story at a meeting with several RUOP officers in the year 2000. They claimed that their colleagues could present eyewitness accounts in a court. They offered a videocassette with evidence against the RDX dealers. Mr Trepashkin did not publicise the meeting fearing for lives of the witnesses and their families.
After the first bombings, Moscow mayor Luzhkov asserted that no warning had been given for the attacks. A previously unknown group, protesting against growing consumerism in Russia, claimed responsibility for the blast. A note was found at the site of the explosion from the group, calling itself the Revolutionary Writers, according to the FSB.
On September 2, Al-Khattab announced: "The mujahideen of Dagestan are going to carry out reprisals in various places across Russia.", but Khattab would later on September 14 deny responsibility in the blasts, adding that he is fighting the Russian army, not women and children.
On September 9, an anonymous person, speaking with a Caucasian accent, phoned the Interfax news agency, saying that the blasts in Moscow and Buynaksk were "our response to the bombings of civilians in the villages in Chechnya and Dagestan." In an interview to the Czech newspaper Lidove Noviny on 9 September, Shamil Basayev denied responsibility, saying: "The latest blast in Moscow is not our work, but the work of the Dagestanis. Russia has been openly terrorizing Dagestan, it encircled three villages in the centre of Dagestan, did not allow women and children to leave." A few days later Basayev denied that Islamist fighters were responsible for the blasts, and instead were connected to "Russian domestic politics." In a later interview, Basayev said he had no idea who was behind the bombings. "Dagestani's could have done it, or the Russian special services."
From September 9–13, AP reporter Greg Myre conducted an interview with Ibn Al-Khattab, in which Al-Khattab as said, "From now on, we will not only fight against Russian fighter jets and tanks. From now on, they will get our bombs everywhere. Let Russia await our explosions blasting through their cities. I swear we will do it." The interview was published on 15 September. In a subsequent interview with Interfax, al-Khattab denied involvement in the bombings, saying "We would not like to be akin to those who kill sleeping civilians with bombs and shells."
On 15 September, an unidentified man, again speaking with a Caucasian accent, called the ITAR-TASS news agency, claiming to represent a group called the Liberation Army of Dagestan. He said that the explosions in Buynaksk and Moscow were carried out by his organisation. According to him, the attacks were a retaliation to the deaths of Muslim women and children during Russian air raids in Dagestan. "We will answer death with death," the caller said. Russian officials from both the Interior Ministry and FSB, at the time, expressed scepticism over the claims. Sergei Bogdanov, of the FSB press service in Moscow, said that the words of a previously unknown individual representing a semi-mythical organisation should not be considered as reliable. Mr. Bogdanov insisted that the organisation had nothing to do with the bombing. On September 15, 1999 a Dagestani official also denied the existence of a "Dagestan Liberation Army".
In his book Darkness at Dawn Satter reported that on 6 June 1999, three months before the bombings, Swedish journalist Jan Blomgren wrote in Svenska Dagbladet that one of options considered by the Kremlin leaders was "a series of terror bombings in Moscow that could be blamed on the Chechens." Satter also noted that on July 22, the Moscow newspaper Moskovskaya Pravda published leaked documents about an operation, "Storm in Moscow", which, by organising terrorist acts to cause chaos, would bring about a state of emergency, thus saving the Yeltsin regime.
Duma member Konstantin Borovoi said that he had been "warned by an agent of Russian military intelligence of a wave of terrorist bombings" prior to the blasts.
The official investigation was concluded in 2002. According to the Russian State Prosecutor office, all apartment bombings were executed under command of ethnic Karachay Achemez Gochiyayev. The operations were planned by Ibn al-Khattab and Abu Omar al-Saif, Arab militants fighting in Chechnya on the side of Chechen insurgents. Both Russia and USA accuse Al-Khattab of having direct links with Al-Qaida, though Khattab himself has always denied this. Al-Khattab and al-Saif were later killed during the Second Chechen War. The planning was carried out in Khattab's guerilla camps in Chechnya, "Caucasus" in Shatoy and "Taliban" in Avtury, according to the prosecution. Gochiyaev's group was trained at Chechen rebel bases in the towns of Serzhen-Yurt and Urus-Martan. The group's "technical instructors" were two Arab field commanders, Abu Umar and Abu Djafar, Al-Khattab was the bombings' brainchild. The explosives were prepared at a fertiliser factory in Urus-Martan Chechnya, by "mixing aluminium powder, nitre and sugar in a concrete mixer", or by also putting their RDX and TNT. From there they were sent to a food storage facility in Kislovodsk, which was managed by an uncle of one of the terrorists, Yusuf Krymshakhalov. Another conspirator, Ruslan Magayayev, leased a KamAZ truck in which the sacks were stored for two months. After everything was planned, the participants were organised into several groups which then transported the explosives to different cities.
The court ruled that Al-Khattab paid Gochiyayev $500,000 to carry out the attacks at Guryanova Street, Kashirskoye Highway, and Borisovskiye Prudy, and then helped to hide Gochiyayev and his accomplices in Chechnya. In early September 1999, Magayayev, Krymshamkhalov, Batchayev and Dekkushev reloaded the cargo into a Mercedes-Benz 2236 trailer and delivered it to Moscow. En route, they were protected from possible complications by an accomplice, Khakim Abayev, who accompanied the trailer in another car. In Moscow they were met by Achemez Gochiyayev, who registered in Hotel Altai under the fake name "Laipanov", and Denis Saitakov. The explosives were left in a warehouse in Ulitsa Krasnodonskaya, which was leased by pseudo-Laipanov (Gochiyayev.) The next day, the explosives were delivered in "ZIL-5301" vans to three addresses – Ulitsa Guryanova, Kashirskoye Shosse and Ulitsa Borisovskiye Prudy, where pseudo-Laipanov leased cellars. Gochiyayev supervised the placement of the bombs in the rented cellars. Next followed the explosions at the former two addresses. The explosion at 16 Borisovskiye Prudy was prevented. Batchayev and Krymshakhalov admitted transporting a truckload of explosives to Moscow but said "they have never been in touch with Chechen warlords and did not know Gochiyaev". They said that someone "who posed as a jihad leader had duped them into the operation" by hiring them to transport his explosives, and they later realised this man was working for the FSB. They claimed that bombings were directed by German Ugryumov who supervised the FSB Alpha and Vympel special forces units at that time.
However, there are grave doubts as to Gochiyaev's guilt. In November 2003, an article appeared in the weekly Moskovskie novosti, authored by a leading investigative journalist, Igor Korolkov. It described a meeting between Mikhail Trepashkin and Mark Blumenfeld, a former businessman who had rented the basement in the apartment house on Guryanov Street to Gochiyaev, in which Mr Blumenfeld had made a sensational declaration: the person who was making use of the Laipanov passport, and who was publicly presented by the investigation as Gochiyaev, was not in fact Gochiyaev. In Lefortovo Prison, Blumenfeld had been shown a photo of someone he was told was Gochiyaev but Blumenfeld replied that he had never seen the man but it was insisted that he identify Gochiyaev, at which point Blumenfeld ceased arguing and signed the document. The person who had met Blumenfeld was evidently not the same person depicted in the photograph but was, according to Blumenfeld, a man with a simple (prostovatoe) face whereas the person Blumenfeld had actually met looked externally like an intellectual. False-Laiponov had been seen by several persons. They all maintained that the (original) composite photo was very similar to the real person (who rented the storage facilities). The criminal case (Delo) of A. Dekkushev and Yu. Krymshamkhalov, compiled by the Russian Procuracy and released in January 2004, contains information that appears to support Trepashkin’s claim that Gochiyaev was in fact wrongly identified as “False-Laipanov.” The “Delo,” to take one example, fails to report that either of the two owners of the storage areas that were bombed on 9 and 13 September had identified Gochiyaev as the man who had rented the premises.
The explosion in the mall on Manezhnaya Square was the subject of a separate court process held in Moscow in 2009. The court accused Khalid Khuguyev Russian: Халид Хугуев and Magumadzir Gadzhikayev Russian: Магумадзаир Гаджиакаев in organisation and execution of the 1999 explosions in the Manezhnaya Square mall and in hotel Intourist and sentenced them correspndingly to 25 years and 15 years of imprisonment.
The September 14 Buinaksk bombings were ordered by Al-Khattab, who promised the bombers $300,000 to drive their truck bombs into the center of the compound, which would have destroyed four apartment buildings simultaneously. However, the bombers parked on an adjacent street instead and blew up only one building. At the trial they complained that Khattab had not given them all the money he owed them. One of the bombers confessed working for Al-Khattab, but claimed he did not know the explosives were intended to blow up the military apartment buildings.
According to Dekkushev's confession he, together with Krymshamkhalov and Batchayev, prepared the explosives, transported them to Volgodonsk, and randomly picked the apartment building on Octyabrskoye Shosse to blow up. Abu Omar had promised to pay him for the job, but Dekkushev never got a single kopeck. According to Dekkushev, it wasn't the FSB that ordered the bombing, as Boris Berezovsky later claimed, but the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Two members of Gochiyayev's group, which had carried out the attacks, Adam Dekkushev and Yusuf Crymshamhalov, have both been sentenced to life terms in a special-regime colony. Both defendants have pleaded guilty only to some of the charges. For instance, Dekkushev acknowledged that he knew the explosives he transported were to be used for an act of terror. Dekkushev also confirmed Gochiyaev's role in the attacks. Dekkushev was extradited to Russia on April 14, 2002 to stand trial. Crymshamhalov was apprehended and extradicted to Moscow. In 2000, six bombers involved in the Buynaksk attack were arrested in Azerbaijan and convicted of the bombing. Achemez Gochiyaev, the head of the group that carried out the attacks and allegedly the main organiser, remains a fugitive, and is under an international search warrant. In a statement released in January 2004, the FSB said, "until we arrest Gochiyayev, the investigation of the apartment bloc bombings of 1999 will not be finished."
In September 1999, hundreds of Chechen nationals (out of the more than 100,000 permanently living in Moscow) were briefly detained and interrogated in Moscow, as a wave of anti-Chechen sentiments swept the city. All of them turned out to be innocent. According to the official investigation, the following people either delivered explosives, stored them, or harboured other suspects:
An independent public commission to investigate the bombings, which was chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, was rendered ineffective because of government refusal to respond to its inquiries.
|“||In my opinion, the following version sounds quite truthworthy. The explosion of a house was not planned, but a training exercise was not planned as well. What was planned was the following action, a propaganda action, one may say so. First, to show the citizens that terrorists are active, that they did not refuse of their murderous plans, and the second point to hit was to show that the brave [security] services perform their duties excellently, and save denizens unveiling a nefarious plot. Why not a version? That plan, possibly, existed and failed. Truly to say, I am very reluctant to believe, that any sort of security services, obeying our supreme authorities were capable of exploding sleeping citizens of their country.||”|
Years later Mr Kovalev remarked, "What can I tell? We can prove only one thing: there was no training exercise in the city of Ryazan. Authorities do not want to answer any questions..."
Two key members of the Kovalev Commission, Sergei Yushenkov and Yuri Shchekochikhin, both Duma members, have since died in apparent assassinations in April 2003 and July 2003, respectively. Another member of the commission, Otto Lacis, was assaulted in November 2003 and two years later, on November 3, 2005, he died in a hospital after a car accident.
The commission asked lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin to investigate the case. Mr. Trepashkin claimed to have found that the basement of one of the bombed buildings was rented by FSB officer Vladimir Romanovich and that the latter was witnessed by several people. Mr. Trepashkin was unable to bring the alleged evidence to the court because he was arrested in October 2003 for illegal arms possession, just a few days shortly before he was to make his findings public. He was sentenced by a Moscow military court to four years imprisonment for disclosing state secrets. Amnesty International issued a statement that "there are serious grounds to believe that Mikhail Trepashkin was arrested and convicted under falsified criminal charges which may be politically motivated, in order to prevent him continuing his investigative and legal work related to the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and other cities". V. Romanovich subsequently died in a hit-and-run accident in Cyprus.
|“||According to legally reliable texts of certificates of his [Romanovich's] death (the source is the bodies of power of the Republic of Cyprus), that we obtained after publishing that article, death of Romanovich occurred in April 1998.||”|
Mr. Trepashkin investigated a letter attributed to Achemez Gochiyayev and found that the alleged assistant of Gochiyayev who arranged the delivery of sacks might have been Kapstroi-2000 vice-president Kormishin, a resident of Vyazma.
According to Mr. Trepashkin, his supervisors and the people from the FSB promised not to arrest him if he left the Kovalev commission and started working together with the FSB "against Alexander Litvinenko".
On March 24, 2000, two days before the presidential elections, NTV Russia featured the Ryazan events of Fall 1999 in the talk show Independent Investigation. The talk with the residents of the Ryazan apartment building along with FSB public relations director Alexander Zdanovich and Ryazan branch head Alexander Sergeyev was filmed few days earlier. On 26 March Boris Nemtsov voiced his concern over the possible shut-down of NTV for airing the talk. Seven months later NTV general manager Igor Malashenko said at the JFK School of Government that Information Minister Mikhail Lesin warned him on several occasions. Mr. Malashenko's recollection of Mr. Lesin's warning was that by airing the talk show NTV "crossed the line" and that the NTV managers were "outlaws" in the eyes of the Kremlin. According to Alexander Goldfarb, Mr. Malashenko told him that Valentin Yumashev brought a warning from the Kremlin, one day before airing the show, promising in no uncertain terms that the NTV managers "should consider themselves finished" if they went ahead with the broadcast.(Goldfarb & Litvinenko 2007, p. 198)
Artyom Borovik told Grigory Yavlinsky that Borovik investigated the Moscow apartment bombings and prepared a series of publications about them. Mr. Borovik received numerous death threats, and he died in an aeroplane crash in March 2000.
Yury Felshtinsky, Alexander Litvinenko, David Satter, Boris Kagarlitsky, Vladimir Pribylovsky, and the secessionist Chechen authorities claimed that the 1999 bombings were a false flag attack coordinated by the FSB to win public support for a new full-scale war in Chechnya, which boosted Prime Minister and former FSB Director Vladimir Putin's popularity, and brought the pro-war Unity Party to the State Duma and Putin to the presidency within a few months.
According to the theory, the bombings were a successful coup d'état organised by the FSB to bring future Russian president Vladimir Putin to power. Some of them described the bombings as typical "active measures" practised by the KGB in the past. David Satter stated, during his testimony in the United States House of Representatives,
"With Yeltsin and his family facing possible criminal prosecution, however, a plan was put into motion to put in place a successor who would guarantee that Yeltsin and his family would be safe from prosecution and the criminal division of property in the country would not be subject to reexamination. For "Operation Successor" to succeed, however, it was necessary to have a massive provocation. In my view, this provocation was the bombing in September, 1999 of the apartment building bombings in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. In the aftermath of these attacks, which claimed 300 lives, a new war was launched against Chechnya. Putin, the newly appointed prime minister who was put in charge of that war, achieved overnight popularity. Yeltsin resigned early. Putin was elected president and his first act was to guarantee Yeltsin immunity from prosecution."
Maura Reynolds from Los Angeles Times investigated Ryazan events by interviewing and quoting Alexei Kartofelnikov, one of the 2 residents who persisted in calling militia, Tatyana Borycheva, Tatyana Lukichyova, also residents, Lt. Col. Sergei Kabashov, Yuri Bludov, the spokesman for the regional FSB.
Helen Womack from The Independent quoted Alexei Kartofelnikov's daughter Yulia, police officer Major Vladimir Golev, Lt. Col. of the Ryazan police Sergei Kabashov.
John Sweeney a journalist at Observer, later for BBC, quoted Vladimir Vasiliev, one of the 2 Ryazan apartment residents who tipped militsia, an "inspector" "from the local police" Andrei Chernyshev, "grandmother Clara Stepanovna", "head of the local bomb squad" Yuri Tkachenko, head of the regional FSB Alexander Sergeyev and others.
Paul Khlebnikov wrote that former Security Council chief Alexandr Lebed in his February 17, 1997 interview with Le Figaro was almost convinced that the government organised the terrorist attacks against its own citizens.
A famous American author in military strategy J. R. Nyquist suggested that Russian secret military operation should also be considered.
Andrey Illarionov a former economic policy advisor to President Putin, has no doubts about who was responsible for the bombings. “[FSB involvement] is not a theory, it is a fact,” he insisted. “There is no other element that could have organized the bombings except for the FSB.”
In 2000, Russia's President Vladimir Putin dismissed the allegations of FSB involvement in the bombings as "delirious nonsense." "There are no people in the Russian secret services who would be capable of such crime against their own people. The very allegation is immoral," he said. An FSB spokesman said that "Litvinenko's evidence cannot be taken seriously by those who are investigating the bombings".
Sergei Markov, an advisor to the Russian government, criticised the film Assassination of Russia which supported the FSB involvement theory. Markov said that the film was "a well-made professional example of the propagandist and psychological war that Boris Berezovsky is notoriously good at." Markov found parallels between the film and the conspiracy theory that the United States and/or Israel organised the 9/11 attacks to justify military actions.
According to researcher Gordon Bennett, the conspiracy theory that the FSB was behind the bombings is kept alive by the Russian oligarch and Kremlin-critic Boris Berezovsky. Bennett points out that neither Berezovsky nor his team (which includes Alexander Litvinenko) have provided any evidence to support their claims. In the BBC World Hard Talk interview on 8 May 2002, Berezovsky was also unable to present any evidence for his claims, and he did not suggest he was in possession of such evidence which he would be ready to present in a court. Bennett also points out that Putin's critics often forget that the decision to send troops to Chechnya was taken by Boris Yeltsin — not Vladimir Putin — with the wholehearted support of all power structures.
Dr. Mike Bowker, from the University of East Anglia, has said that the inference that the bombings were carried out by the Russian authorities is uncorroborated by evidence. According to Bowker, the theory also ignores the history of Chechen terrorism and public threats by various Chechen rebels following their defeat in Dagestan – which included Khattab telling a Czech and a German newspaper, a few days before the bombings in Moscow, that "Russian women and children will pay for the crimes of Russian generals." and that "this will not happen tomorrow, but the day after tomorrow"
Dr. Vlad Sobell has pointed out that the proponents of the theory that the second invasion of Chechnya was a plot by Putin to get elected regularly ignore the key fact that Putin's attack on Chechnya in 1999 was preceded by a Chechen insurrection in Dagestan, whose objective was to turn it into another unstable Chechnya.
According to Associate Professor Henry E. Hale of Harvard University, one thing that remains unclear about the "FSB did it" theory: If the motive was to get an FSB-friendly man installed as president, why would the FSB have preferred Putin, a little-known "upstart" who had leapt to the post of FSB director through outside political channels, to Primakov, who was certainly senior in stature and pedigree and who was also widely reputed to have a KGB past?
According to Dr. Robert Bruce Ware of Southern Illinois University, "The assertions that Russian security services are responsible for the bombings is at least partially incorrect, and appears to have given rise to an obscurantist mythology of Russian culpability. At the very least, it is clear that these assertions are incomplete in so far as they have not taken full account of the evidence suggesting the responsibility of Wahhabis under the leadership of Khattab, who may have been seeking retribution for the federal assault upon Dagestan's Islamic Djamaat."
Dr. Kirill Pankratov, in a 2003 letter to the Johnson's Russia List, spoke against Satter's and Putley's theory. He noted that 1) there was no need for "another pretext for military operation in Chechnya at the time of the Ryazan incident", but there were already a "plenty of reasons for decisive military response", 2) the FSB of other security service[clarification needed] was institutionally incapable of such a conspiracy after years of decline in the 1990s, 3) the conspirators were not actually trying to blow a building up in Ryazan; however, their sloppy actions are "consistent with the training exercise version of events", 4) the FSB did not have to declare the incident a "training exercise", but "it was much easier to show great relief... and continue trying to find the perpetrators of the bombing attempt."
Security and policy analysts Simon Saradzhyan and Nabi Abdullaev noted that Litvinenko and Felshtinsky did not provide any direct evidence to back up their claims about FSB involvement in the bombings.
Andrey Soldatov is sceptical about Mikhail Trepashkin's awareness of the details of the Russian apartment bombings. According to Soldatov, the Russian government's suppression of the discussion of the FSB involvement theory reflects paranoia rather than guilt on its part. He points out that, ironically, the paranoia produced the conspiracy theories that the government was keen to stamp out.
In 2009, Russian journalist and radio host Yulia Latynina, commenting on Scott Anderson's article "Vladimir Putin's Dark Rise to Power" noted that deaths of Sergey Yushenkov and Yury Schekochihin "in any case, had no relation to bombings in Moscow". Latynina opined, that the version that FSB did the bombings was not only absurd, but purposefully invented by Berezovsky after he was deprived of the power. Her major argument was, that since Berezovsky was one of the key figures to push Putin into the power, he knew for certain the theory was wrong. If Berezovsky felt that "there are some people else beyond Putin, some fearsome siloviks who can explode houses, they [the Family] would throw Putin away, as a hot potato".
Paul J. Murphy, a former US counterterrorism expert stated that "the evidence that Al-Khattab was responsible for the apartment building bombings in Moscow is clear". Murphy also states "the findings by the Russian government prove that the Liberation Army of Dagestan, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, is the same as Al-Khattab's Islamic Army of Dagestan, which launched the invasion of Dagestan from Chechnya in August 1999".
According to Dr. Robert Bruce Ware, an associate professor of Southern Illinois University, the best explanation for the apartment block blasts is that they were perpetrated by Wahhabis under the leadership of Khattab, as retribution for the federal attacks on Karamachi, Chabanmakhi, and Kadar. "If the blasts were organized by Khattab and other Wahhabis as retribution for the federal attacks on Dagestan's Islamic Djamaat, then this would explain the timing of the attacks, and why there were no attacks after the date on which fighting in Dagestan was concluded. It would explain why no Chechen claimed responsibility. It would account for Basayev's reference to Dagestani responsibility, and it would be consistent with Khattab's vow to set off bombs everywhere... blasting through [Russian] cities."
In a March 2010 article, Yulia Latynina wrote:
|“||The 1999 bombing in Buinaksk, in Dagestan, was carried out by local militants who were fighting to install "pure Islam" in the republic. |
Several Moscow blasts were orchestrated by two men from the republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia — Achemez Gochiyayev and his brother-in-law Khakim Abayev. Gochiyayev also staged a series of simultaneous bombings in late 2000 and early 2001. He was joined by Denis Saitakov, a Tartar, and Rustam Akhmyarov, who is half-Bashkir, half-Russian.
Six months earlier Miss Latynina had expressed a somewhat different view: “Are the testimonies of Dekkushev and Krymshamkhalov exhaustive? No. Their testimony about everything that took place in the training camp of Khattab and Abu Umar has been verified by nothing other than by other unverified testimony. In essence, we can only say one thing: such camps existed, and, in them, by the logic of things, there had to be – there were obliged to be! – not only enthusiastic lads from all over the Caucasus but also agents of the FSB.” 
The theory of Khattab’s involvement is unconvincing given the time required to organise and carry out such a campaign. Satter’s estimate of this is four to four and a half months. However, there is another explanation for the invasion of Dagestan.
There is evidence during this time of the funding of the Chechen extremists by Berezovsky through the Russian Security Council. Former MVD chair and deputy prime minister Anatolii Kulikov told the weekly Argumenty i fakty in 2002: “I have received a great deal of evidence that Berezovskii was funding Chechen extremists. He did it under the flag of the [Russian] Security Council, which had enormous powers under Boris Yeltsin… On April 29, 1997, I was informed that Berezovskii’s envoy Badri Patarkatishvili had arrived at the Ingushetian airport of Sleptsovsk. He gave Shamil Basaev $10 million—in the presence of Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev and Vice-president B. Agapov…” 
Why was Berezovsky funding the Chechen extremists? “To the extent that Berezovskii represented the interests of the Yeltsin regime in Chechnya,” the late American journalist Paul Klebnikov has written, “the Kremlin had been undermining the moderates, supporting the extremists financially and politically… At best, it was a misguided policy… The worst-case scenario is that the Berezovskii strategy with the Chechen warlords was a deliberate attempt to fan the flames of war.’”
In September 2009, Alexander Goldfarb, an ally of Berezovsky, admitted what the oligarch had earlier denied. “In two words,” Goldfarb wrote, “in the spring of 1999 on the threshold of the autumn elections, there was achieved a secret agreement [dogovorennost’] between Basaev and Udugov, on the one hand, and the Kremlin top leadership, on the other, for a short victorious (for Russia) war in the Caucasus….Udugov to achieve this end even flew to Moscow. It was proposed that, in response to the provocations of the wahhabis in Dagestan, Russia would begin limited military actions which would be crowned by the return of the Upper Terek district of Chechnya. As a result, the Maskhadov regime in Groznyi would fall, and his place would be taken by Basaev and Udugov.” 
“Udugov’s rationale,” Goldfarb had earlier written in a 2007 book, “was geopolitical. Maskhadov’s long-term goal, he said, was to steer Chechnya to full independence and integrate it with the West, eventually joining NATO… This naturally would be bad for Russia. It would also be bad for Islam, Udugov argued, because America is the Great Satan and the ultimate enemy of all Muslims.” 
During the period between being replaced as prime minister in August 1999 and the presidential elections in March 2000, the former silovik Sergei Stepashin made a number of striking admissions concerning the planning of the top Russian leadership to launch a new war in Chechnya. “In March of 1999…” he said, “we decided to close the border, create a sanitary cordon around Chechnya—like the Berlin wall.” The journalist then asked, “An invasion of Chechnya was not on the table?” Stepashin replied: “Yes it was. In the summer, in July  we decided to seize territory [in Chechnya] north of the Terek. Since Tsarist times this was Russian territory, populated mostly by Cossacks…” Journalist: “Does this mean that Russian forces would have entered Chechnya even if there had been no attack on Dagestan and no acts of terrorism in Moscow?” Stepashin: “Yes.” 
It should be emphasised here that Stepashin was admitting that an invasion of Chechnya had been planned and authorized by himself, and, implicitly, by Vladimir Putin and other Russian siloviki, presumably with President Yeltsin’s consent, before the incursions by rebels into Dagestan in August and September 1999.
Stepashin made more-or-less the same admissions to Michael Gordon of The New York Times in an interview published in the newspaper’s 1 February 2000 issue. “Work on the plan of an invasion began,” Gordon noted, “in March 1999 when Mr. Stepashin was interior minister and continued after he was appointed prime minister in May….In July 1999, the plan was broadened to include the seizure of the top third of Chechnya, down to the Terek River… Commando raids would be conducted throughout Chechnya to ferret out rebel leaders. But there would not be any ground operations south of the river and certainly no heavy street fighting in Grozny.” 
Stepashin was asked in mid-September 1999 by journalist Mark Deich whether Berezovsky’s negotiations with the radical Chechen leaders had been aimed at igniting a new conflict. He responded: “As for the version of a conspiracy, one has to realize that having provoked a war, it is difficult in that region to quickly gain a victory… It is another matter altogether that certain agreements were possible, in order to destabilize the situation and to bring it under Emergency Rule. Now that is a version.” What Stepashin appeared to be saying was that Berezovsky and others (including Stepashin himself, as well as Putin) were seeking to provoke a limited conflict, one which would allow the government to declare Emergency Rule in Russia and thus postpone the approaching parliamentary and presidential elections.
As Patrick Cockburn pointed out: “The revelation by Mr Stepashin, that Russia planned to go to war long before it has previously admitted, lends support to allegations in the Russian press that the invasion of Dagestan in August and the bombings in September were arranged by Moscow to justify its invasion of Chechnya.”
Why did the Kremlin need to justify the invasion of Chechnya? It is first necessary to cast a brief glance back at the year 1994. Yeltsin’s advisors believed that a surefire way to boost his ratings so that he could be re-elected in 1996 would be to provoke and win a “short victorious war”. Oleg Lobov, secretary of Yeltsin’s Security Council, confided to Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov in late 1994, “We need a small victorious war to raise the president’s ratings.”
The December 1994 invasion of Chechnya, however, did not produce the desired results but contributed to a deterioration of the political situation in Russia. In March 1996, it looked to the ailing Yeltsin and to his entourage as if the Russian presidency might be lost that summer to forces unsympathetic to them or their financial interests. “I had to take a radical step”’ Yeltsin confided in his memoirs. “I told my staff to prepare the documents. Decrees were written to ban the Communist Party, dissolve the Duma and postpone the presidential elections.”
Thus, in 1996, Yeltsin was perfectly willing to violate the “Yeltsin Constitution” of 1993 in order to remain in power. Eventually Yeltsin was convinced by his interior and defense ministers and by his former chief of staff Anatolii Chubais and oligarch Boris Berezovsky that he could be re-elected if the correct “technologies” were applied.
In the spring of 1999, Yeltsin found himself once again in what he perceived to be a very difficult situation. It seemed likely that forces mobilized by Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov (soon to be joined by former Russian prime minister Evgeniy Primakov) would be able to make major gains during the parliamentary elections of December 1999 and then take the Russian presidency in June 2000.
So war in Chechnya was intended to bring about a postponement of the 2000 Presidential Elections. But events took an unexpected turn. On 24 September, eleven days after the second Moscow bombing had occurred, Prime Minister Putin vowed publicly to the Russian public, “We will pursue the terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, then, in an airport, and, forgive me, if we catch them in the toilet, then we’ll rub them out in the crapper in the final analysis. The question is closed once and for all.”
Putin’s use of crude criminal argot energized a Russian public which was already keen on revenge. A poll taken by VTsIOM (now the Levada Cente) on 27 September showed a considerable hardening of public opinion. “There should either be an end to the terrorist acts or there should be a massive bombardment of the territory of the republic (Chechnya)…. This position is held by 64% of the participants in a poll just conducted by VTsIOM.” Approval of Putin’s work as Prime Minister also began to soar: to 53% in September, 66% in October, and 78% in November.
This marked upsurge in Putin’s ratings had apparently not been expected. One well-known Kremlin political technologist, Stanislav Belkovsky, who, in 1999, was reported to be closely allied with oligarch Boris Berezovsky, subsequently recalled (in 2006): “When they say today that Berezovsky, Yeltsin, Abramovich, Yumashev and someone else knew precisely that Putin would become president…that is, of course, complete nonsense. On 1 September 1999, when Putin had already for two weeks…been the official premier confirmed by the State Duma, I attended a closed meeting. In it one high personage…pronounced the following: ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, dear colleagues, would be a remarkable president of Russia… But you and I are not idiots, and we understand that the people will never elect him.’”
“The original scenario,” Belkovsky went on to stress with remarkable candour, “did not propose a sharp rise in the ratings of Vladimir Vladimirovich as a result of the Chechen war, while the bombings of the apartment houses served as grounds for the introduction of Emergency Rule and the postponement of the elections. And only when it became clear that his rating was growing, and that it was not necessary to postpone the elections, then the theme of Emergency Rule was removed from the agenda…” (Newtimes.ru, no. 32, 2006).
To be completed...