Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Polonium Poisoning and the Russian Apartment Bombings: The Testimony of Mikail Trepashkin, ex-FSB Lawyer


Trepashkin is in the same situation as the dissidents of the Soviet times. - Elena Bonner, human rights activist
In progress...
This is a picture of an amazing 1998 press conference in Russia. The men in the picture are Russian FSB (formerly KGB) officers, and they are making accusations against Putin and the leaders of the FSB. The man on the right, Aleksandr Litvinenko, is claiming that he was ordered to kill the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky. Litvinenko, of course, is now known to the whole world as the ex-FSB officer who defected to Great Britain and who was poisoned in London by polonium-laced tea. Before he was murdered, Litvinenko reportedly even claimed that the FSB trained Osama Bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in Dagestan in the years before the 9/11 attacks. In 2005, Litvinenko reportedly told a Polish paper called Rzeczpospolita that Zawahiri was trained in Dagestan.
Moscow News carries this story about Zawahiri being trained in Dagestan by the FSB but does not mention Litvinenko as the source of the story. [I will try to pin this claim down a little more.]
Here is a video of A. Litvinenko accusing Putin of ordering the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist who worked for Novaya Gazeta.
On the far left in this picture is an FSB lawyer named Mikhail Trepashkin [search for Trepashkin stories here]. Trepashkin investigated the 1999 apartment bombings in Russia that Putin blamed on Chechen separatists. These bombings were used as a pretext to invade Chechnya and helped Putin win the Presidential election in March 2000. Trepashkin claims that his investigation of the bombings led right back to the FSB.
The 9-22-99 bombing of a Ryazan apartment was foiled when one resident noticed people unloading heavy bags into the basement. He called the police and a telephone tap revealed evidence that tracked back to the Moscow FSB. The FSB then countered that they were only doing a training exercise.
After M. Trepashkin investigated these bombings and alleged that the FSB was complicit in these mass murders, M. Trepashkin says a gun was planted in his car. He was arrested for divulging state secrets and put in prison.
His lawyer says he has information about the Litvinenko murder, too.
Below is a picture [credit] of Trepashkin in prison. On 3-9-07, RIA Novosti reported that the authorities have decided to give Trepashkin a harsher regime because he is supposedly an uncooperative prisoner:
A Russian court has ruled to transfer former security service officer Mikhail Trepashkin, serving a term for divulging state secrets, to a prison colony with a stricter regime...The colony administration has called for a toughening of his prison regime due to alleged breaches of internal regulations by Trepashkin.
It is hard to know the truth for sure about Trepashkin's case, but I think that Trepashkin was probably imprisoned for doing his job of investigating crimes honestly. I think that he is being punished for revealing the crimes of the FSB against its own citizens. In 2002, Trepashkin was even Litvinenko's lawyer [see: AFTER YEARS OF DISPUTES WITH AUTHORITIES].
Trepashkin reportedly claims that the FSB once proposed that he kill Litvinenko.
A blogger at A Step at a Time reports:
On March 9, Mikhail Trepashkin’s appeal will be heard by a court in Nizhny Tagil (Sverdlovsk Oblast). Trepashkin, a former FSB official who is serving a 4-year jail sentence for allegedly disclosing state secrets, and who is a witness of major importance in the Litvinenko poisoning case, has given an interview to The New Times in which he describes how the FSB proposed that he take part in the liquidation of Litvinenko. Newsru.com has published some excerpts from the interview. Asked why the special services chose such a complicated plan for eliminating Litvinenko, Trepashkin replies [my tr.]:
I think it was carelessness in the work of the agents who carried out the murder, and also the organizer’s intention to kill the agents along with Litvinenko, and also Litvinenko’s family, Berezovsky and Zakayev (while they were at it). It’s possible that the agents didn’t know about the possible consequences for themselves and the environment. I think they calculated that the cause of death would never be precisely established as polonium.
You can draw your own conclusions. But I will add the following. Back in 2001, when I telephoned Litvinenko in London for the first time on Shebalin’s request (on behalf of the FSB, as he explained), I asked him if he was going to write a new book, where he was working and with whom, and he replied that he had a job as a postman in the mornings. Then, some time later, Shebalin expressed the view that it would be a good thing to send him (Litvinenko) a letter containing powder. There was a lot being written about such letters in the States at the time.
Some Russian authorities have claimed that the murders of Putin's critics are being done by Putin's enemies to discredit Putin. This official explanation is belied by the fact that the Russian government has not caught any of the murderers. This official explanation is also is belied by the case of M. Trepashkin. It was not Putin's enemies who put M. Trepashkin in prison; it was Putin's regime that did that.
A site called The Trepashkin Case also has information about this ex-FSB lawyer's history. This site also has an informative link to information about a film that investigates the mysterious Moscow apartment bombings in 1999. This 2004 film is called Disbelief and was directed by Andrei Nekrasov. [Watch the film right now!] There were also apartment bombings in other Russian cities as well.
The article about Disbelief is prefaced by this statement:
A fatal bomb blast in a Moscow apartment building ignites a fury of questions about terrorism, shadow politics, and post-Soviet intrigue in Disbelief; a film as much about the high art of political deception as it is about violence and human tragedy. The bombing on September 9, 1999, of a nine-story working-class apartment complex in Moscow was quickly blamed on Chechen terrorists. But was it their crime? Or did the Russian secret service deflect its own responsibility for the bombing on the Chechens to heighten national fear and hysteria and justify Russia's subsequent military attack on the breakaway republic?"
Deploying all the suspense and drama of a sophisticated murder mystery, Nekrasov has created one of the most compelling and captivating films of the year” - 2004 Sundance Film Festival Catalogue.
This 3-5-07 article in the Hamilton Spectator (by David Holley of the Los Angeles Times) tells about all the people who have died while trying to get to the bottom of these apartment bombings.
Holley writes:
Despite all the official denials, bus driver Alexei Kartofelnikov still thinks someone tried to blow up his home in September 1999.
A series of bomb blasts that authorities blamed on Chechen terrorists already had destroyed four apartment buildings in Russia that month, killing 310 people. Kartofelnikov's vigilance led police to discover an apparent bomb made with sacks of white powder in the basement of his apartment block in Ryazan, about 150 kilometres southeast of Moscow.
Two days later, the interior minister said authorities had prevented another attack. But the director of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the KGB, contradicted him, saying it was an exercise by his agency. The powder was just sugar, FSB director Nikolai Patrushev said.
The Ryazan case might have remained a historical footnote had the Kremlin not launched its second war in Chechnya that month, a tough response that boosted the popularity of the new prime minister, Vladimir Putin. Riding that popularity, Putin was elected president six months later.
A series of Kremlin critics who demanded an independent investigation of the bombings have since died in murky circumstances. The latest were former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by radioactive polonium-210, and journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Critics say the evidence suggests the FSB tried to plant a real bomb at Kartofelnikov's building. If that's true, they say, it indicates the spy agency also might have been behind the other bombings, in a bid to boost the popularity of Putin, a former KGB spy.
Litvinenko made that argument in a 2002 book, Blowing Up Russia: Terror From Within, which he wrote with historian Yuri Felshtinsky...[Amazon link to English version]
Doubts surfaced almost immediately about the accusation against the Chechens and the FSB's claim that the Ryazan incident was merely a test.
The debris from the Moscow bombings was cleared so quickly that critics wondered why authorities were willing to forgo the chance to search for more evidence. [full text]
I am going to do more reading about these dissidents' allegations that the FSB was behind the bombing of Russian people's apartments. When they first surfaced, I thought that these accusations against Putin's FSB by might be exaggerated and perhaps were fabricated by his enemies and aimed at discrediting him; but Putin's enemies did not put Mikail Trepashkin into prison. Putin did that. Andrei Sakarov's wife, Yelena Bonner, claims that the official investigation of the bombings was a sham and that the prosecutions were "show trials." A number of people who have tried to investigate these bombings independently have died violently after they participated in Andrei Kovalyev's independent commission to investigate the bombings. Trepashkin was the legal counsel for the Kovalev Commission, which also seems to be called the Terror '99 Commission.
The landlord in the bombed building told Mr. Trepashkin that the FSB had forced him to recognize a Chechen suspect - someone he had never seen - as the man who rented the basement to plant the bomb. From the landlord's description Mr. Trepashkin identified the real terrorist - a known FSB agent.
Maybe some men in the Russian FSB actually did speak truth to power, instead of the usual lies. It is hard to know the truth.
I am going to read two books that are due out soon: Litvinenko's book, Blowing Up Russia: The Secret Plot to Bring Back KGB Terror (Encounter Books, April 2007) and a book by Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko called Death of a Dissident: Alexander Litvinenko and the Death of Russian Democracy (The Free Press, May 2007). David Satter, the former Moscow correspondant for the Wall Street Journal, has also written an account of the apartment bombings in his book Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State (Yale University Press, 2004).
Russian FSB assassins may even have been involved in the 3-1-07 shooting of Paul Joyal, an American expert on the KGB, and in the sudden death on 2-20-07 of a British journalist for the London Times, Dan McGrory. Both of these men were interviewed by Dateline for a 2-25-07 program about the Polonium murder of A. Litvinenko.

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