Sunday, February 17, 2008

Presidential Candidate Senator John McCain on the 1999 Russian Apartment Bombings

Picture credit and information about the 1999 Russian apartment bombings. Read about the film Disbelief and watch the film. Read Chapter Two of David Satter's book Darkness at Dawn (pp. 24-33) here.

"There remain credible allegations that Russia's FSB had a hand in carrying out these attacks."---Senator John McCain (11-4-03)

In progress...

I have written a number of articles about the Russian apartment bombings of 1999 [Search "Litvinenko", "Trepashkin", and "apartment" on this site].

A series of bombings in Moscow and elsewhere occurred beginning on August 31, 1999, and ending on September 22, 1999, when local police found and defused a bomb in the basement of a Ryazan apartment block before it could explode. The bombings killed nearly 300 people and injured more than 550. The survivor's possessions were destroyed and they were left homeless. Many articles about these bombings can be found at a site called TERROR-99.

The bombings precipitated the Second Chechen War, although Chechen field commanders did not take responsibility for the bombings and Chechnya's President Aslan Maskhadov said that his government was not involved.

Wikipedia notes:

On the evening of September 22, 1999, an alert resident of an apartment building in the town of Ryazan noticed two suspicious men who carried sacks into the basement from a car with a Moscow license plate.[2] When police arrived, the car with people was gone.

The cops found three hundred-pound sacks of white powder in the basement. A detonator and a timing device were attached and turned on. The timer was set for 5:30 in the morning [1]. Yuri Tkachenko, the head of the local bomb squad, disconnected a detonator and a bomb timing device and tested three sacks of white substance with a gas analyzer MO-2. The substance was identified as hexogen (RDX), military explosive used in all previous bombings.[2]

Police and rescue vehicles converged from different parts of the city, and 30,000 residents have been evacuated from the area. 1,200 local police officers 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".[2] Composite sketches of two man and a women terrorist suspects were sent to two thousand policeman and shown on TV.

At 8 a.m. September 23 Russian television networks reported the attempt to blow up a building in Ryazan using hexogen. The minister of internal affairs Vladimir Rushailo announced that police prevented a terrorist act. Later in the evening Vladimir Putin praised the vigilance of the Ryzanians and called for the air bombing of Grozny.[6].

In the evening of September 23, the perpetrators were caught. A telephone service employee tapped into a long distance phone conversations managed to detect a talk in which an out-of-town person suggested to "split up" and "make your own way out". That person's number was found to belong to an FSB office in Moscow. When arrested, the detainees produced FSB identification cards. They soon have been released on orders from Moscow. The names and further fate of three FSB agents who conducted this operation remained unknown as of 2007.

Next morning FSB director Nikolai Patrushev declared that the incident was a training exercise.[7]

On March 23 2000, a few days before the Putin's election, Igor Malashkevich, the president of NTV Russia was going to broadcast "The Sugar of Ryazan" movie about the events. He was warned that NTV "should consider themselves finished" if they will go ahead with the broadcast. The warning allegedly came from Vladimir Putin and was brought by Valentin Yumashev, son-in-law of Boris Yeltsin [8]

Wikipedia's entry on the bombings notes:

The Russian Duma rejected two motions for parliamentary investigation of the Ryazan incident. An public commission to investigate the bombings chaired by Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev was rendered ineffective because of government refusal to respond to its inquiries. Two key members of the Kovalev Commission, Sergei Yushenkov and Yuri Shchekochikhin, both Duma members linked with Berezovski as well, have since died in apparent assassinations in April 2003 and July 2003 respectively.The Commission's lawyer Mikhail Trepashkin has been arrested in October 2003 to become one of the better-known political prisoners in Russia.

In his book Darkness at Dawn, David Satter cited evidence against the FSB in the 1999 bombings and the attempted bombing in Ryazan. Most of his story is in Chapter 2, "Ryazan." pages 24-33. These pages are available on-line here.

On 5-17-07, Mr. Satter testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs:

With Yeltsin and his family facing possible criminal prosecution [for corruption]...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 [Full text of Satter's 5-17-07 Congressional testimony. See also David Satter's 4-19-02 on-line paper for The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies: "The Shadow of Ryazan: Who Was Behind the Strange Russian Apartment Bombings in September 1999?"]

A Russian lawyer who had worked for the FSB (the main domestic security service of the Russian government and the main successor-agency of the Soviet-era KGB), Mikhail Trepashkin, investigated these bombings for Duma deputy Sergei Kovalyev's independent public commission and concluded the bombings were the work of his own agency, the FSB. The FSB is supposed to be in charge of tracking terrorists, but really they may be the terrorists.

The ex-FSB lawyer Trepashkin has been held in a Russian prison for revealing state secrets (See Trepashkin's prison letters here); and others who also shared his suspicions, such as the ex-FSB officer Alexander/Alexandr Litvinenko, have been murdered.

This past November, the Eurasian Security Services Daily Review (11-29-07), citing the Russian news agency Interfax, reported that Trepashkin was expected to be released from prison on 11-30-07. According to the Eurasian Security Services Daily Review (11-29-07):

The Moscow District Military Court said [Trepashkin] would spend four years in a convict settlement. Trepashkin applied for the release on parole after he had served a third of his time, Interfax notes [Full text].

A website about a film called Nedoverie or Disbelief that chronicles the investigation of these bombings can be viewed here. A short synopsis of the film explains:

When Tatyana Morozova, a pre-school teacher in Milwaukee, learned that her mother had been killed and her old apartment block destroyed by an explosion back in Moscow, she believed the official version: that the attack was the work of Chechen terrorists. Then an American scholar published a book arguing that the bombing was engineered by the FSB, the Russian secret service, to help Vladimir Putin win the elections.

Torn by grief and disbelief, Tatyana and her sister Alyona embark on a journey in space and time to seek the truth - followed by the camera of Russian filmmaker Andrei Nekrasov. Filmed in Milwaukee, Moscow, Denver, Washington, London and the Ural Mountains, Disbelief chronicles the agony of a devastated family swept up in the high-stake politics of the age of global terrorism.

The actual film Disbelief can be viewed here.

Some people claim that blaming the FSB for these bombings is a conspiracy theory akin to blaming the Bush administration for the 9-11 attacks. Anything is possible, and both sides of the controversy are available in the Wikipedia entry about these bombings.

Still, the KGB has a long history of using active measures and of hiring terrorists to achieve its goals, so it is disturbing that the KGB's main successor agency, the FSB, is charged with countering terrorism.

Soviet active measures have historically included terrorism directed against totally innocent people that was then often blamed on the regime's enemies---who were not necessarily the same as the Russian people's enemies.

The Wikipedia entry on active measures notes:

Active measures range "from media manipulations to special actions involving various degree of violence". They can be used abroad or domestically. They include disinformation, propaganda, counterfeiting official documents, assassinations, and political repression, such as penetration of churches, and persecution of political dissidents [1].

"Active measures" include establishment and support of international front organizations (e.g. the World Peace Council); foreign communist, socialist and opposition parties; wars of national liberation in the Third World; and underground, revolutionary, insurgency, criminal, and terrorist groups. [1]. The intelligence agencies of Eastern Bloc and other communist states also contributed in the past to the program, providing operatives and intelligence for assassinations and other types of covert operations. [1]

Retired KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin described "active measures" as "the heart and soul of Soviet intelligence": "Not intelligence collection, but subversion: active measures to weaken the West, to drive wedges in the Western community alliances of all sorts, particularly NATO, to sow discord among allies, to weaken the United States in the eyes of the people of Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and thus to prepare ground in case the war really occurs." [2]

In my opinion, the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee and the 1978 mass-killings at Jonestown may have been instances of KGB-sponsored terrorist active measures that were blamed on the FBI and CIA. Indeed, discrediting these agencies may have been the main objective of these tragic events: The lawyer for both the AIM terrorists who occupied Wounded Knee and for the Jonestown commune was Mark Lane, who wrote a book about the Jonestown murders that blamed the CIA.

KGB documention brought out by the KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin has subsequently revealed that the lawyer for both the Wounded Knee occupiers on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and for the ill-fated people at Jonestown was Mark Lane, who reportedly had a relationship with the KGB.

When over 900 of his clients were poisoned with cyanide, attorney Mark Lane reportedly abandoned them and saved himself by fleeing into the jungle. Mark Lane was one of only 9 people who escaped into the jungle. And then Mark Lane wrote a book that blamed the Jonestown mass-murders on the CIA.

The discredited "Indian expert," ex-professor Ward Churchill---a vicious, mendacious radical who celebrated the war crimes of 9-11 and characterized the innocent victims as "little Eichmanns"---once claimed in a KGB-sponsored publication that the FBI backed death squads who killed 342 Pine Ridge Indians.

A site called The Trepashkin Case quotes the 2003 remarks of Republican Pesidential candidate John McCain on the Russian apartment bombings here:

From the Statement of U.S. Senator John McCain delivered on the Senate floor on November 4, 2003

...It was during Mr. Putin's tenure as Prime Minister in 1999 that he launched the Second Chechen War following the Moscow apartment bombings. There remain credible allegations that Russia's FSB had a hand in carrying out these attacks. Mr. Putin ascended to the presidency in 2000 by pointing a finger at the Chechens for committing these crimes, launching a new military campaign in Chechnya, and riding a frenzy of public anger into office...

...Earlier this year, State Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov, who had been investigating potential connections between the 1999 Moscow apartment bombings and the start of the Second Chechen War, was killed outside his Moscow apartment. State Duma deputy Yuri Schekochikhin, who had been looking into the role of the FSB in the Moscow bombings as well as a scandal surrounding the involvement of FSB officers in illegal trade, was also killed in mysterious circumstances. Both crimes remain unsolved. [Links added by Snapple; Read full text here, here, and here].

The last book that Shchekochikhin published was titled Slaves of the KGB: 20th Century. The Religion of Betrayal. The book recounts the experiences of people who were unwillingly recruited into the KGB. Shchekochikhin died after a brief mysterious illness. Many people who have tried to investigate the Putin regime have been silenced by poisons, shootings, or bombs: from the pro-democracy Kremlin critic Galina Starovoitova to the American expert on the KGB Paul Joyal, who survived a shooting in the driveway of his Maryland home.

It is very bitter experience to reread Shchekochikhin's premature optimism about the young generation that was coming into adulthood during the 1980s. In the foreward Nancy Traver's book Kife: The Lives and Dreams of Soviet Youth (1989), Shchekochikhin wrote about his hopes for these young people who grew up without the fear of Stalin in their hearts:

A new generation, devoid of social fear, had stepped into life. The nightmare of Stalin's terror was not in their genes because they were the first generation in our country whose innocent fathers had not been arrested....

Already another new young generation is appearing in our life: it's composed of the ones who are growing up during perestroika. These are the children of glasnost. They don't have to look for the words of truth in samizdat (illegally published literature). Glasnost is not an unexpected gift for them, as it is for us, the older generation. Glasnost is an integral part of their lives and they will never let anybody destroy it (KIFE x-xi).

A Radio Free Liberty article published on 7-16-03 by Virginie Coulloudon a few days after Shchekochikhin's mysterious death explains why Shchekochikhin was a threat to some people:

Shchekochikhin became famous in the summer of 1988, when he published in "Literaturnaya Gazeta" an interview with the then deputy head of the Interior Ministry's Organized Crime Department, Aleksandr Gurov.

Shchekochikhin and Gurov were among the first in the Soviet Union to denounce publicly the system of organized corruption that linked Soviet industry and the system of domestic trade to the police and the state. In his articles, Shchekochikhin ultimately revealed the real -- unofficial -- Soviet Union and Russia: the informal rules of clan logic and the secret prices for all official functions, the extent of endemic corruption at both the local and federal levels, and the key issue of burgeoning juvenile crime.

After a remarkable career in investigative journalism, Shchekochikhin took advantage of a second window of opportunity opened by the state and entered politics. This turning point dates back to 1989, when he was elected as a USSR People's Deputy from Ukraine and became a member of the Interregional Group. He was elected deputy in the Russian State Duma in 1995, where he joined the Yabloko parliamentary group. Since then, Shchekochikhin was a Duma deputy and one of the most visible members of Grigorii Yavlinskii's party.

After his re-election in December 1999, he was appointed deputy chairman of the Duma's Security Committee. He primarily worked on issues related to organized crime and corruption, and he advised the United Nations on all issues related to international organized-crime groups linked to the Russian mafia.

Shchekochikhin had already received a death threat last February. The threat came immediately after he published a detailed article on the so-called Tri Kita affair. Tri Kita is the name of a major furniture store in Moscow, some of whose managers are suspected of weapons smuggling, laundering large sums of money in Europe, and corrupting officials in the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General's Office. Only four days after the article appeared, Yabloko issued a press release making this threat public and denouncing the atmosphere of intimidation that accompanies the work of investigative journalists. "If the life of a journalist and his family is the price to pay for telling the truth, then there is no freedom of speech in the country," Yabloko's press release declared.

Shchekochikhin had been doggedly investigating the Tri Kita affair over the past three years. He wrote detailed articles in "Novaya Gazeta" and used his position at the State Duma to question high-ranking officials and request official documents and materials related to the case. As of today, only one thing is certain: Shchekochikhin was embarrassing too many people.

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