Russian apartment bombings

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The Russian apartment bombings were a series of bombings in Russia that killed nearly 300 people and led the country into the Second Chechen War. They happened over a span of two months in 1999. The Russian authorities, directed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, blamed the bombings on Chechen separatists, and ordered the invasion of the province of Dagestan a few days later. However, various sources, including former FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko, and Financial Times correspondent in Moscow David Satter have claimed that the bombings were in fact a "false flag" attack perpetrated by the FSB in order to legitimate the reprisal of military activities in Chechnya.


[edit] The bombings

The first bombing, which did not target an apartment, occurred in Moscow, the Russian capital, on August 31, 1999. A bomb exploded in a mall, killing one person and leaving 40 others wounded. A note was left saying the bombing was a result of increasing Russian consumerism.

[edit] Buynaksk

On September 4, 1999, a car bomb detonated outside an apartment building housing Russian soldiers in the city of Buynaksk, in the province of Dagestan. Sixty-four people were killed and dozens of others were wounded. Russia blamed separatists from Chechnya, and days later invaded the province of Dagestan.

[edit] Moscow, Pechatniki

On September 8, 1999, 300 kg to 400 kg of explosives detonated on the ground floor of an apartment building in southeast Moscow. The nine-story building was destroyed, killing 94 people inside and wounded 150 others. A total of 108 apartments were destroyed during the bombing. A caller to a Russian news agency said the blast was a response to recent Russian bombing of Chechen and Dagestan villages in response to the invasion of Dagestan.

[edit] Moscow, Kashirskoye highway

September 13, 1999, was supposed to be a day of mourning for the victims of the previous bomb attacks. But on that day, a large bomb exploded at an apartment on Kashirskoye Highway in southern Moscow. The eight-story building was flattened, littering the street with debris and throwing some concrete hundreds of yards away. In all, 118 people died and 200 were wounded.

It was at this time when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin declared a war against the "illegal military units" in Chechnya. Though there was not much evidence pointing to Chechens, preparations were made by the Russian military forces to re-enter the province and to strip the Chechen government of its powers.

[edit] Volgodonsk

The motive for the forceful solution was clinched when a truck bomb exploded September 16, 1999, outside a nine-story apartment complex in the southern Russian city of Volgodonsk, killing 17 people.

In response, Russia launched air strikes on Chechen rebel positions, oil refineries, and other buildings inside that province. By the end of September it was clear another war over Chechnya was underway, and by October Russian troops had entered the province. The attacks would not be the last in Russia or Chechnya.

[edit] Ryazan incident

On the evening of September 22, 1999, an alert resident of an apartment building in the town of Ryazan noticed strangers moving heavy sugar sacks into the basement from a car. Militia (the local police) were called to the site and all residents were evacuated. The first test of the powder from the sacks showed the presence of an explosive. All roads from the town were brought under heavy surveillance but no leads were found. A telephone service employee tapped into long-distance phone conversations managed to detect a conversation in which an out-of-town person suggested to take care and to watch for patrols. That person's number was found to belong to an FSB office in Moscow.

Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti declared that the incident was a training exercise forty-eight hours later. The original chemical test was declared inaccurate due to contamination of the analysis apparatus from a previous test. The public inquiry committee could not come to a complete conclusion on this and other incidents due to incoherent answers from federal bodies. The General Prosecutor's office has closed the criminal investigation of the Ryazan incident in April 2000.

[edit] Official investigation

According to the official investigation [1], the apartment bombings were planned and organized by Amir Khattab and Abu Umar, Arab militants fighting in Chechnya on the side of Chechen insurgents, both of whom were later killed. The planning was carried out in Khattab's guerilla camps in Chechnya, "Caucasus" in Shatoy and "Taliban" in Avtury.

This particular operation was led by an ethnic Karachay Achemez Gochiyayev. The explosives were prepared in Urus-Martan, Chechnya at the fertilizer factory by mixing hexogen, TNT, aluminium powder and nitre with sugar. From there they have been 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, had leased a KamAZ truck which the sacks were stored in for two months. After everything was planned, the participants were organized into several groups which transported the explosives to different cities. Most of the people participating were not ethnic Chechens.

According to official version, the following people either delivered explosives, stored them, or harbored other suspects:

[edit] Moscow bombings

  • Achemez Gochiyayev (has not been arrested<ref name = "FSB">Wanted page on FSB.</ref>)
  • Denis Saitakov (killed in Chechnya)
  • Khakim Abayev (killed by FSB special forces in May 2004 in Ingushetia)
  • Ravil Akhmyarov (killed in Chechnya)
  • Yusuf Krymshakhalov (arrested in Georgia, extradited to Russia and sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2004)

[edit] Volgodonsk bombing

  • Timur Batchayev (killed in Georgia in the clash with police during which Krymshakhalov was arrested)
  • Zaur Batchayev (killed in Chechnya)
  • Adam Dekkushev (arrested in Georgia, threw a grenade at police during the arrest, extradited to Russia and sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2004)

[edit] Buinaksk bombing

  • Isa Zainutdinov (sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2001)
  • Alisultan Salikhov (sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2001)
  • Magomed Salikhov (arrested in Azerbaijan in November 2004, extradited to Russia, found not guilty on the charge of terrorism by the jury on January 24, 2006; found guilty on other related charges such as participating in an illegal armed force and illegal crossing of the national border<ref name = "Lenta2006-01-24">Lenta 2006 Jan 24.</ref>, the Supreme Court has found some procedural issues with that decision and decided that a retrial was necessary, but on November 13, 2006 he was again found not guilty, this time on all charges, including the ones he was found guilty of in the first trial<ref name = "Lenta2006-11-13">Lenta 2006 Nov 13.</ref>)
  • Ziyavutdin Ziyavutdinov (arrested in Kazakhstan, extradited to Russia, sentenced to 24 years in April 2002)
  • Abdulkadyr Abdulkadyrov (sentenced to 9 years in March 2001)
  • Magomed Magomedov (sentenced to 9 years in March 2001)
  • Zainutdin Zainutdinov (sentenced to 3 years in March 2001 and immediately released under amnesty)
  • Makhach Abdulsamedov (sentenced to 3 years in March 2001 and immediately released under amnesty).

Somebody who claimed to be Gochiyayev has sent a letter to several Russian newspapers in which he said that he was just an unknowing participant in a plot organized by an undercover FSB agent, Ramazan Dyshekov. It is unclear how credible his claims are.

[edit] Attempts at independent investigation

The Russian Duma rejected two motions for parliamentary investigation of the Ryazan incident<ref name = "terror99-49">[2]</ref><ref name = "terror99-42">[3]</ref>. An independent public commission to investigate the bombings chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev was rendered ineffective because of government refusal to respond to its inquiries<ref name = "terror99-107">[4]</ref><ref name = "terror99-87">[5]</ref>. 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<ref name = "nupi">[6]</ref><ref name = "terror99-118">[7]</ref>. The Commission's lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin has been arrested in October 2003 to become one of the better-known political prisoners in Russia. Another member of the commission, Otto Lacis, was brutally beaten<ref name = "NewsRU">[8]</ref> in November 2003.

[edit] Theory of FSB involvement

The Ryazan incident on September 22, 1999 prompted the initial speculation in the Western press that the Moscow bombings were organized by the FSB, the Russian domestic intelligence service<ref name = "Guardian">Guardian.</ref><ref name = "Tjetjenien">Tjetjenien.</ref>. In Russia, the nickname "Mr. Hexogen" has come to be applied to President Vladimir Putin, the former head of the FSB.<ref name = "NewsMax2002-07-18">NewsMax.</ref><ref name = "NewsMax2002-07-22">NewsMax.</ref>

The FSB were caught by local police and citizens in the city of Ryazan planting a bomb with a detonator in the basement of an apartment building at the address of 14/16 Novosyelov on the night of September 22, 1999. Explosives experts arriving at the scene found that the bomb tested positive for hexogen (i.e., RDX). On September 24, 1999, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, said that the bomb in the basement of the apartment had been a dummy and that the FSB had been conducting a test. The FSB claimed that the gas analyzer that detected hexogen had malfunctioned, and that the substance in the dummy bomb was sugar.<ref name = "Satter">SAIS-JHU</ref><ref name = "NationalReview">National Review.</ref> Duma, on a pro-Kremlin party block vote, voted to seal all materials related to Ryazan incident for the next 75 years and forbade an investigation of what really happened.

Yet, Yuri Tkachenko, the explosives expert who defused the bomb insisted that it was real. Tkachenko said that the explosives, including a timer, power source, and detonator were genuine military equipment and obviously prepared by a professional. He also said that the gas analyzer that tested the vapors coming from the sacks unmistakably indicated the presence of hexogen. Tkachenko said that it was out of the question that the analyzer could have malfunctioned, as the gas analyzer was of world class quality, costing $20,000 and was maintained by a specialist who worked according to a strict schedule, checking the analyzer after each use and making frequent prophylactic checks. Tkachenko pointed out that meticulous care in the handling of the gas analyzer was a necessity because the lives of the bomb squad's experts depended on the reliability of their equipment. The police officers who answered the original call and discovered the bomb also insisted that the incident was not an exercise and that it was obvious from its appearance that the substance in the bomb was not sugar.<ref name = "Satter" /><ref name = "NationalReview" />

In the book Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within, published in 2002 with the financial support of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Alexander Litvinenko, a former FSB agent, alleged that agents from the FSB co-ordinated the apartment block bombings. In December 2003 Russian authorities confiscated over 4000 copies of the book en route to Moscow from the publisher in Latvia.<ref>Russian editor questioned over seizure of controversial book</ref>. Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London in November 2006.

Boris Berezovsky also supported a 2002 documentary film "FSB blows up Russia" ("An assault on Russia"?), financing 25% of the costs<ref name = "ChechnyaFilmFestival">Chechnya Film Festival.</ref>. The film accused Russian special services of organising the explosions in Volgodonsk and Moscow. According to research carried out by two French journalists, Jean-Charles Deniau and Charles Gazelle, the explosions were carried out by FSB to provide justification for the continuance of the Chechen War, which in turn helped Putin beat the communists in the presidential election of 2000. There is some doubt concerning Berezovsky's impartiality in this case, as he allegedly had extensive business dealings with Chechen rebels. However, nearly 40% of the Russians gave credence to Berezovsky's accusations at the time<ref name = "TjetjenienPoll">Poll at Tjetjenien.</ref>

In April 2002 on a visit to Washington, Duma member Sergei Yushenkov pointed to a mysterious remark by the Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev, from which it appeared that Seleznev had known about one of the explosions three days before the fact<ref name = "Jamestown">[9]</ref><ref name = "CDI">CDI.</ref>. In fact, Seleznyov was referring to an unrelated explosion which indeed happened in Volgodonsk three days earlier<ref name = "terror99-2">Terro99 2</ref>.

An independent documentary 'Nedoverie" (Disbelief<ref name = "IMDB">IMDB</ref><ref name = "GoogleVideo">Google Video</ref>) about the bombing controversy by Russian director Andrei Nekrasov was premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. The film chronicles the story of Tatyana and Alyona Morozova, the two Russian-American sisters, who had lost their mother in the attack, and decided to find out who did it<ref name = "TheMoscowTimes">The Moscow Times.</ref>.

On May 20, 2004, an article in the Los Angeles Times described the conviction on an unrelated state secret charge of Mikhail Trepashkin, appointed by a public committee, set up by four members of the Russian parliament, to investigate the bombings. Trepashkin was arrested shortly before he was to make his findings public. The article states that FSB agent Vladimir Romanovich was identified by several witnesses as the man who rented the basement of one of the bombed buildings; Romanovich subsequently died in a car crash in Cyprus. Trepashkin's wife declared that his conviction was punishment for publicizing uncomfortable truths about the bombing.

Among Western scholars, the theory of FSB involvement in the bombings has been championed by David Satter, the former Financial Times correspondent in Moscow, in his book Darkness at Dawn: the Rise of the Russian Criminal State ISBN 0300098928, published by Yale University Press<ref name = "YalePress">Yale University Press.</ref>.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

et:Elumajade plahvatused 1999 ru:Взрывы жилых домов

Russian apartment bombings

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