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The Russian apartment bombings were a series of explosions that hit four apartment blocks in the Russianmarker cities of Buynakskmarker, Moscowmarker and Volgodonskmarker in September 1999, killing nearly 300 people and spreading a wave of fear across the country. Together with the Invasion of Dagestan launched by militants from Chechnya in August 1999, led by Basaev and Khattab, the bombings caused the Russian Federation to intensify the Second Chechen war.

The blasts hit Buynaksk on September 4, Moscow on September 9 and 13, 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 Ryazanmarker on September 23. On the next day FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev announced that the Ryazan incident had been a training exercise and the bomb was declared a fake. Contrary to this, the police explosives expert who defused the Ryazan bomb, insisted that it was real. The previously unknown terrorist group Liberation army of Dagestan claimed responsibility for the blasts.

A criminal investigation of the bombings was completed in 2002. According to the investigation and the court ruling that followed, the bombings were organized by Achemez Gochiyaev, who remained at large as of 2009, and ordered by Arab Mujahids Ibn Al-Khattab and Abu Omar al-Saif, who have been killed. Six other suspects have been convicted by Russian courts.

Previous threats

A Finnish journalist who in mid-August 1999, before the bombings, travelled to the village of Karamakhimarker in Dagestanmarker, interviewed some villagers and their military Commander General Dzherollak. The journalist wrote: "The Wahhabis' trucks go all over Russia. Even one wrong move in Moscow or Makhachkala, they warn, will lead to bombs and bloodshed everywhere." 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, Russian military launched an aerial bombing of the villages.

The bombings

Overview

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

Moscow mall

On August 31, 1999, at 20:00 local time (8:00 PM), a powerful explosion took place in a busy Moscow shopping center. One person was killed and 40 others injured. According to FSB, the explosion had been caused by a bomb of about 300g of explosives.

Buynaksk, Dagestan

On September 4, 1999, at 22:00 (18:00 GMT), a car bomb detonated outside a five story apartment building in the city of Buynakskmarker in Dagestanmarker, 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 of explosives. It was discovered by local residents in a parking lot surrounded by an army hospital and residential buildings.

Moscow, Pechatniki

Bombing at Guryanova Street.
One section of the building completely collapsed.


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 September 13 a day of mourning for the victims of the attacks.

Moscow, Kashirskoye highway

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. 118 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 yards away.

Moscow, attempted bombings

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 September 14, 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.

Volgodonsk

A truck bomb exploded on September 16, 1999, outside a nine-story apartment complex in the southern Russian city of Volgodonskmarker, 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 centers and nuclear complexes.

Ryazan incident

On the evening of September 22, 1999, a resident of an apartment building in the city of Ryazanmarker 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 analyzer. The device detected traces of RDX, the military explosive used in all previous bombings.. The explosive engineers took a bit of substance from the suspicious-looking sacks to a firing ground located some kilometers 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. 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. In the morning, "Ryazan resembled a city under siege". Composite sketches of three suspected terrorists, two men and a woman, were shown on TV.

In the morning of September 23 Russian television networks reported the attempt to blow up a building in Ryazan using RDX.. On the 23 of September 1999 the NTV broadcasting company transmitted in its News block at 4 p.m. there were no explosives detected during the suspicious-looking sacks testing. Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Rushailo announced that police prevented a terrorist act. Later in the evening Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the Ryazanians and called for the air bombing of the Chechen capital Groznymarker.

Later, 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. According to the head of FSB Nikolai Patrushev, the exercise was carried out to test responses after the earlier blasts. FSB issued a public apology about the incident.

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 analyzer that tested the vapors coming from the sacks unmistakably indicated the presence of RDX. Tkachenko said that it was out of the question that the analyzer could have malfunctioned, as the gas analyzer was of world class quality, cost $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 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 analyzer 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.

Other related events

The type of explosives controversy

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 aluminum powder, niter (saltpeter), sugar, and TNT prepared by the perpetrators in a concrete mixer at a fertilizer factory in Urus-Martanmarker, Chechnya. RDX is produced in only one factory in Russia, in the city of Permmarker,. According to the book by 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.

A military storage with RDX disguised as "sugar"

In March 2000, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported about a 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 Novaya Gazeta for insulting the honor of the Russian Army, since there was no Private Alexei Pinyaev in the regiment, according to their statement. At an FSB press conference Private Pinyayev stated that there was not any hexogen in the 137th sky troops Regiment and that he was hospitalized in December 1999 and no longer visited the range.

Incident in Russian Parliament

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 Volgodonskmarker was blown up last night". However, the bombing in Volgodonsk took place three days later, on September 16. When the Volgodonsk bombing happened, Vladimir Zhirinovsky demanded an explanation in the Duma, but 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 Kontoramarker 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.

Sealing of all materials by Russian Duma

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.

Arrest of independent investigator Trepashkin

The commission of Sergei Kovalev asked lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin to investigate the case. 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. However, Trepashkin was unable to bring the evidence to court, because he was arrested by FSB in October 2003 (imprisoned in Nizhny Tagilmarker), 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 four years imprisonment. 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". Romanovich subsequently died in a hit and run accident in Cyprusmarker. According to Trepashkin, his supervisors and people from the FSB promised not to arrest him if he left the Kovalev commission and started working with the FSB "against Alexander Litvinenko". Commission chairman Kovalev summarized their findings as follows: "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..."

On Decemeber 10, 2006 Trepashkin wrote a letter to newspaper Novaya Gazeta where he claimed that the officials of the Regional Directorate against the Organized Crimes (RUOP) of Main Directorate of the Internal Affairs (GUVD) in Moscow arrested several people who were questioned in regards of buying and selling RDX. Soon after the arrest several officials from the N.P.Petrushev Directorate of FSB came to the headquarters of the GUVD on Shabolovka street, took all of the material evidences, and ordered to fire all the officials that conducted the arrest. Later sometime in 2000 Trepashkin had meetings with several of the high-ranking officers from the RUOP that disclosed him the whole story. They offered the videocassette containing the footage that led to the arrest of the RDX dealers and offered to appear in court as witnesses. Trepashkin never publicized that to the Public Commission of the State Duma headed by Kovalev to avoid further involvement of the state security services. A similar videocassette possessed Aleksandr Litvinenko with whom Trepashkin contacted as well. Soon thereafter Trepashkin was arrested as a bandit and thrown in a car under a Chechen handgun loaded with seven bullets of the FSB officials which were accusing him in a plot against the Prsident of the Russian Federationmarker and was taken to the city of Dmitrovmarker. The whole court process in regards to the bombings took place without him and behind the closed doors to avoid the information leak. Trepashkin was surprised how the officials of FSB found out about his investigations and became suspicious of couple of journalists with whom he conducted his investigations Levitov (survivability of whom he doubted) and V.V.Shebalin. Trepashkin later found that the latter disclosed everything to D.A.Paramonov, the member of FSB.

Soon the controversial Litvinenko affair took place also. In January 2002 after the Shebalin's statement FSB confiscated the Trepashkin's PC where he had the last evidences of his investigations. After the FSB was not able to open the encrypted evidences in Trepashkin's computer they illegally destroyed it.

Publications about advanced planning of the bombings

On June 6, 1999, three months before the bombings, Swedish journalist Jan Blomgren wrote in newspaper 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."

On July 22, Moscow newspaper Moskovskaya Pravda published leaked documents about an operation, "Storm in Moscow", which, by organizing terrorist acts to cause chaos, would bring about a state of emergency, thus saving the Yeltsin regime.

Russian 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.

Claims and denials of responsibility for the blasts

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 September 9, 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 to September 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 September 15. 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 September 15, 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 organization. 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 skepticism 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 organization should not be considered as reliable. Mr. Bogdanov insisted that the organization had nothing to do with the bombing. On September 15, 1999 a Dagestani official also denied the existence of a "Dagestan Liberation Army".

Investigations and theories

Criminal investigation and court ruling

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 Shatoymarker and "Taliban" in Avturymarker, 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 fertilizer factory in Urus-Martanmarker 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 Kislovodskmarker, 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 organized into several groups which then transported the explosives to different cities.

Moscow

Al-Khattab paid Gochiyayev $500,000 to carry out the attacks at Guryanova Street, Kashirskoye Skosse, and Borsovskiye 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 realized 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.

Buinaksk

The 4 September Buinakskmarker 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.

Volgodonsk

According to Dekkushev's confession he, together with Krymshamkhalov and Batchayev, prepared the explosives, transported them to Volgodonskmarker, 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 Berezovsky later claimed, but the United Statesmarker Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Sentences

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 organizer, 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."

Suspects and accused

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 harbored other suspects:

  • Ibn al-Khattab (a Saudi-born Mujahid), who was killed by the FSB in 2002.


Moscow bombings

  • Achemez Gochiyayev (an ethnic Karachai, has not been arrested; he is still at large)
  • Denis Saitakov (an ethnic Tatar from Uzbekistanmarker, killed in Georgiamarker in 1999-2000)
  • Khakim Abayev (An ethnic Karachai, killed by FSB special forces in May 2004 in Ingushetiamarker)
  • Ravil Akhmyarov (a Russian citizen, Surname indicates an ethnic Tatar, killed in Chechnya in 1999-2000)
  • Yusuf Krymshamkhalov (an ethnic Karachai and Resident of Kislovodskmarker, arrested in Georgia in December 2002, extradited to Russia and sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2004, after a two-month secret trial held without a jury)
  • Stanislav Lyubichev (a traffic police inspector, resident of Kislovodsk, Stavropol Krai, who helped the truck with explosives pass the checkpoint after getting a sack of sugar as a bribe, sentenced to 4 years in May 2003)


Volgodonsk bombing

  • Timur Batchayev (an ethnic Karachai, killed in Georgia in the clash with police during which Krymshakhalov was arrested)
  • Zaur Batchayev (an ethnic Karachai killed in Chechnya in 1999-2000)
  • Adam Dekkushev (an ethnic Karachai, arrested in Georgia, threw a grenade at police during the arrest, extradited to Russia and sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2004, after a two-month secret trial held without a jury)


Buinaksk bombing

  • Isa Zainutdinov (an ethnic Avar and native of Dagestan, sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2001)
  • Alisultan Salikhov (an ethnic Avar and native of Dagestan, sentenced to life imprisonment in March 2001)
  • Magomed Salikhov (an ethnic Avar and native of Dagestan, arrested in Azerbaijanmarker in November 2004, extradited to Russia, found not guilty on the charge of terrorism by the jury on January 24, 2006; found guilty of participating in an armed force and illegal crossing of the national border, he was retried again on the same charges on November 13, 2006 and again found not guilty, this time on all charges, including the ones he was found guilty of in the first trial. According to Kommersant Salikhov admitted that he made a delivery of paint to Dagestan for Ibn al-Khattab, although he was not sure what was really delivered.)
  • Ziyavudin Ziyavudinov (a native of Dagestan, arrested in Kazakhstanmarker, extradited to Russia, sentenced to 24 years in April 2002)
  • Abdulkadyr Abdulkadyrov (an ethnic Avar and native of Dagestan, sentenced to 9 years in March 2001)
  • Magomed Magomedov (Sentenced to 9 years in March 2001)
  • Zainutdin Zainutdinov (an ethnic Avar and native of Dagestan, sentenced to 3 years in March 2001 and immediately released under amnesty)
  • Makhach Abdulsamedov (a native of Dagestan, sentenced to 3 years in March 2001 and immediately released under amnesty).


Theory of Islamist involvement

According to Paul J. Murphy, a former US counterterrorism official, the evidence that Al-Khattab was responsible for the apartment building bombings in Moscow is clear. Murphy also asserts, that 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.

Professor Peter Reddaway and researcher Dmitri Glinski, have described the involvement of the Liberation Army of Dagestan as the most likely explanation for the bombings.

According to Dr. Robert Bruce Ware, an associate professor of Southern Illinois University, the simplest, clearest explanation for the apartment block blasts is that they were perpetrated by Wahhabis from Dagestan and perhaps elsewhere in the region, 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 their cities'."

Attempts at independent investigation

The Russian Duma rejected two motions for parliamentary investigation of the Ryazan incident.

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.

Mr. Kovalev said, in 2002, that the theory of the FSB involvement published in the book of Litvinenko and Felshtinsky seemed to be doubtful.

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". Romanovich subsequently died in a hit and run accident in Cyprusmarker.

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 a vice-president of Kapstroi-2000 Kormishin who resided in Vyazmamarker.

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 March 26 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.

Grigory Yavlinsky said that Artyom 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 airplane crash in March 2000.

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya and former security service member Alexander Litvinenko, who investigated the bombings, were killed in 2006.

Surviving victims of the Guryanova street bombing asked President Dmitry Medvedev to resume the investigation in 2008.

Conspiracy Theory of Russian government involvement

State Duma deputies Sergei Kovalev, Yuri Shchekochikhin, and Sergei Yushenkov cast doubts on the official version, and they sought an independent investigation. Yury Felshtinsky, Alexander Litvinenko, David Satter, Boris Kagarlitsky, Vladimir Pribylovsky, Anna Politkovskaya, filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov, investigator Mikhail Trepashkin, as well as the secessionist Chechen authorities and former popular Russian politician Alexander Lebed, claimed that the 1999 bombings were a false flag attack coordinated by the FSB in order 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 a theory, the bombings were a successful coup d'état organized by the FSB to bring future Russian president Vladimir Putin to power. Some of them described the bombings as typical "active measures" practiced by the KGBmarker in the past. David Satter stated, during his testimony in the United States House of Representatives,

Criticism of the conspiracy theory

Officials

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, criticized 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 Israelmarker organized the 9/11 attacks to justify military actions.

Scholars

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.

Professor Richard Sakwa has commented on the claims of Berezovsky and Litvinenko, saying that the evidence they presented was at best circumstanstial.

Dr. Mike Bowker, from the University of East Angliamarker, has said that the inference that the bombings were carried out by the Russian authorities is uncorrobated 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 Universitymarker, 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 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.

Analysts

Andrey Soldatov is skeptical 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 involvment 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.

Related Event

A year after the apartment bombings, on 8 August, 2000, another explosion occurred in Moscow, in which eight people were killed and more than 50 were injured. Chechen separatists were widely blamed for the blast. One of Russia's heavyweight papers, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, argued the blast lifted any suspicion that the now-president Putin had anything to do with the apartment-block bombs in 1999. "The explosion in Pushkin Square has dispelled all speculation in this respect", the paper wrote, adding that one can only imagine what the public's reaction will be after the newest blast.

See also



References

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  133. Press draw lessons from Moscow blast


Bibliography




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