This Date's Issues: 4654
Johnson's Russia List
27 November 2000
[Note from David Johnson:
1. Reuters: Is Russian offer on EU force plan to divide
2. Reuters: Russia's Gusinsky sees foreign media investing
3. The Russia Journal: Yury Sigov, No one is lobbying
Russia's interest in U.S.
4. BBC Monitoring: Paper rejects idea of Russian-US action
against Bin Ladin in Afghanistan.
5. Interfax: Russian economics minister confirms Russia's
free market aspirations. (Gref)
6. BBC Monitoring: Russia has good laws but they should be
carried out - UK ambassador.
7. The Russia Journal: Andrei Piontkovsky, Dealing with the
8. Program on New Approaches to Russian Security (PONARS): Edward Ponarin,
Alexander Solzhenitsyn as a Mirror of the Russian Counter-
9. Cryptome: John Sweeney, THE FIFTH BOMB: DID PUTIN'S
SECRET POLICE BOMB MOSCOW IN A DEADLY BLACK OPERATION?]
Is Russian offer on EU force plan to divide NATO?
By Adam Tanner
BERLIN, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Critics of the European Union's plan to create
own rapid reaction force see Russia's offer to cooperate with it as
sign that the European project could divide the NATO alliance.
"The European force is what's driving the wedge between Europe and
States and the Russians are just trying to jump on the train," said
Ashkenasi, a professor at Berlin's Free University.
European countries announced this week they were to set up their own rapid
reaction force outside NATO, the Atlantic alliance heavily dependent on
military might. NATO formed the West's primary Cold War buffer against the
former Soviet Union.
EU countries said they envisaged a force of up to 60,000 ground troops
the EU's 15 member states by 2003 to tackle regional conflicts and
On Saturday, following a speech in which he criticised NATO's 1999 bombing
Yugoslavia and Washington's interest in a ballistic missile defence
Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov welcomed the new force.
"In a crisis situation we are ready for constructive
cooperation," he said in
"The possibility of a Russian contribution in the conduct of European
operations in regulating crises will be studied," he continued.
"I am sure
that this will open good possibilities for our joint contribution to
strengthening stability and security in Europe."
After talks with Ivanov on Sunday, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer
called the idea of Russian cooperation interesting, citing the
operation already under way in Kosovo as an example of successful
"This is a proposal which is interesting and we will look at it very
carefully," he told Reuters.
"I think we don't have a European army. We are just building up some
structures so we will have a combined effort of the members of the EU
supported by non-EU and NATO members and some others."
"In Kosovo we have the reality. We are in close cooperation with
troops on the ground," he continued. "We have very good
with Great Britain and France, with non-aligned Europeans which have
During his speech on Saturday, Ivanov, long a bitter critic of NATO policy
Yugoslavia, gave a completely different assessment of Kosovo.
"Unfortunately, everything that has been done in Kosovo, including
administration there, has in fact strengthened the position of the
separatists," he said.
"We must keep in mind that what is taking place today in Kosovo
precedent that could impact the peacekeeping of other ethnic conflicts
PRECEDENT FOR A WEAK PRESIDENT?
Ashkenasi said the Russian interest in the European force appeared timed
take advantage of the turmoil in the United States over who won the
He said that the last time the United States had such a close election, in
1960, Moscow quickly posed a tough test for the new president, John
by precipitating the Cuban missile crisis.
Russian expert Alexander Rahr at Berlin's German Foreign Policy
said Moscow was clearly seeking a dialogue that excluded NATO, but he
that such a rapport would not endanger the North Atlantic alliance.
"The tactic is to open a dialogue with the Europeans and create a
alternative to NATO," he said. "But (Russian President Vladimir)
does want to work with Europe."
"The Americans should not be afraid," Rahr continued. "NATO
will always be
stronger than the European army, at least for the next 10 or 20
Moscow's offer to help is seen likely to sharpen the debate in Washington
over the European force.
For decades, U.S. officials have called on Europe to do more to provide
their own security. Yet at the same time, many fear losing influence in
European peacekeeping operations.
Russia says the new force is a test of the continent's oft-declared intent
work closely with Moscow.
"Everyone says they want to cooperate with Russia, that they love
when it comes down to it there is always resistance," one Russian
INTERVIEW-Russia's Gusinsky sees foreign media investing soon
By Joan Gralla
NEW YORK, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Russian self-exiled media magnate Vladimir
Gusinsky said on Sunday he was looking for a foreign investor to buy a
sizable stake as soon as Christmas in Media-Most group's television
NTV, which has been critical of President Vladimir Putin's administration.
Gusinsky, who spoke to Reuters by telephone from Spain, said: "We
several proposals now. Maybe before Christmas or immediately after we can
negotiate this with our allies."
Gusinsky left Moscow after being jailed in the city's Butyrskaya prison
three days in June on embezzlement charges. His recent refusal to return
Moscow to meet prosecutors led them to issue an arrest warrant on the same
In mid-November, the businessman, a prominent leader of Russia's Jewish
community, lost control of the Media-Most empire he built after Gazprom,
state-dominated natural gas monopoly, received shares in the company under
deal to cover his debts to the utility.
Asked how the relationship with Gazprom was proceeding, Gusinsky replied:
problem. Everything is working okay."
Gusinsky declined to disclose how much a stake in Russia's only nationwide
independent television network might fetch.
A source involved in the negotiations who declined to be identified, said
price might run from $200 million to $400 million. That was higher than an
estimate made on Nov. 17 by Gazprom Media chief Alfred Kokh, who said
and Media-Most would try to sell a 25 percent blocking stake of NTV to a
foreign investor for at least $90 million.
Part of the strategic plan includes seeking a listing on the Nasdaq stock
market next year, Gusinsky said.
The fight to control Media-Most and attacks on Gusinsky have been seen by
and critics of Putin as attempts to throttle the freedom of the press. The
Kremlin denies it wants to crack down on the media and says the Media-Most
debt-settling deal with Gazprom was purely commercial.
Putin took office in May vowing that "oligarchs," powerful
used their vast wealth to call favors under former President Boris
would see their influence wane under his rule.
Saying the legal system was being used as a weapon by political leaders,
Gusinsky said he would not return to Moscow unless both the prosecutors
courts worked independently. "I would come back if the legal system
like an independent legal system. Now, unfortunately, it's not
Gusinsky said he believed Putin and his team hoped that by reissuing the
arrest warrant for him they would get journalists to pull back from
On November 20, the prosecutors called in NTV anchor Yevgeny Kiselyov to
answer questions in a probe about Media-Most's security service, which is
alleged to have spied on other companies and on some government agencies.
Media-Most denies this, and says it does not even have a security service.
"It's pressure...people must be afraid to be critical of the
his (Putin's) policy," Gusinsky said.
Kiselyov, the first journalist to be questioned in connection with
to rein in the oligarchs, told reporters he saw no political undertone
him or NTV in the questions, which related to how NTV had gotten documents
for items broadcast three years ago about the disputed privatization
of the aluminum industry.
The attacks on Gusinsky and on Boris Berezovsky, a prominent businessman
media interests, have raised concerns that anti-Semitism is on the rise in
Russia. Berezovsky, like Gusinsky, is Jewish.
Gusinsky looked at the issue in the context of Putin's attempts to rein in
the power of regional governors and remove resistance to the Kremlin from
"Look, I can tell you honestly, Putin is not an anti-Semitic
Gusinsky said. "But it's the ideology of the new Russia, greater
It's a danger to every minority who lives in the country."
The Russia Journal
November 25-December 1, 2000
No one is lobbying Russia's interest in U.S.
By Yury Sigov
Yury Sigov is Washington bureau chief for Noviye Izvestia and a regular
columnist for The Russia Journal.
WASHINGTON - When there are discussions about support for Russia in the
United States, Bill Clinton is the person most frequently mentioned.
During his two terms, Clinton has treated Russia, if not with
love," at least with "a partner's understanding." In an
people here have also been speculating about who would be the most
pro-Russian in his policy, Al Gore or George W. Bush.
However, even the most pro-Russian U.S. president can do little against
strongly negative feelings toward Russia in the American Congress. When
this anti-Russian congressional feeling heats up, whoever is in the White
House is forced to listen and agree to a variety of boycotts, bans,
reprimands and assistance cutbacks. There just isn't anyone around to
defend the interests of Russia in the United States.
In Soviet times, there were ardent discussions about setting up a Russian
lobby in America. There were prominent U.S. politicians, influential
businessmen and journalists who looked favorably on Russia - or at least
didn't hate Moscow.
During Mikhail Gorbachev's time, about $30 million was spent by Moscow in
the United States on setting up this kind of lobby. There were certain
successes - Perestroika was a magnet for many idealistic Americans in
When the Soviet Union collapsed, and the lobbying system along with it,
need for this kind of pro-Moscow lobby in the United States became even
more imperative. Beginning in 1994, the Russian Embassy in Washington has
vigorously pushed the idea of starting "lobbist activity" here,
examples of other, much-less influential countries than Russia that have
powerful lobbies in America.
The most successful lobbies of this kind operate for Saudi Arabia, Taiwan
and Kuwait. According to unofficial sources, the Saudis spend some $100
million a year on developing "friendly relations" with the
There are also powerful French, Jordanian and Turkish lobbies in America.
The ex-Soviet republics cannot match the wealth of Kuwait or Taiwan. But,
Armenia, for example - due to its strong and influential diaspora - makes
an important impact through its lobby in defending Yerevan's foreign
interests. Ukraine and Estonia also have strong and omnipresent lobbies in
In 1996, in response to pleas by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
the Finance Ministry decided to disburse money for the creation of a
Russian lobby in the United States. It's difficult to cite the exact
of cash allocated by Moscow; however, reports have it that about $3
was transferred to Washington. With this money, important pro-Russian
figures in America were sought out, some U.S. businesses were contacted,
and a long-forgotten Russian Jewish diaspora was motivated to start the
difficult pro-Moscow image-making process.
Later, a strict order was issued from the Kremlin to get this lobby money
back to Russia. Those who wanted to support Russia in America were given a
piece of advice: Do it for free. Many Americans decided that if the
government didn't want to spend its own money on lobbying activity in the
States, there was no reason why they should do it themselves.
There is no interest in pro-Russia lobbying, either from U.S. business or
from Russian-related companies in the States. There are few successful
Russian owned businesses in America. And those who pretend to be the
defenders of Russia among Russian-speaking emigres here have no money at
Currently, there are no congressmen or top local officials of Russian
origin in the United States. Therefore, it is no surprise that Russia is
still portrayed as a semi-criminal country.
For Russia, the problem is not so much financial as strategic. An
Russian lobbying effort would have to be supported by the Kremlin and well
coordinated. But if Moscow continues to only think about lobbying during
times of scandal and crisis, the image of Russia and its leadership will
remain negative in America.
Paper rejects idea of Russian-US action against Bin Ladin in Afghanistan
Source: 'Nezavisimaya Gazeta', Moscow, in Russian 24 Nov 00
A few days ago a sensational report appeared in the Russian mass media
citing anonymous `Daily Telegraph' sources in Washington regarding
"retaliatory strikes" by the United States from Uzbekistan's
[Usamah] Bin Ladin's terrorist groupings in Afghanistan... It is said that
the Pentagon also wants to involve Russia, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in
this operation and that is why it has been conducting relevant
consultations with them.
As competent sources within the Russian, Uzbek and Kyrgyz military
departments said yesterday [23rd November], this was the first they had
heard of this news and they have no information on this problem. Your
`Nezavisimaya Gazeta' correspondent was told the same thing by the Uzbek
Embassy press service in Moscow. Thus the information that filtered
to the `Daily Telegraph' may either be just a "canard" or a
classified piece of information which the parties to the talks do not want
to "divulge" before the talks are over in order to make full use
factor of surprise for strikes on Afghanistan...
It is hard to tell how ready Uzbekistan is to accommodate foreign troops
its territory and allow them to strike at groupings in Afghanistan with a
view to combating terrorism. However, Uzbek sources note the considerable
cooling of official Tashkent's relations with Moscow in the sphere of
military cooperation and at the same time the unusually extensive plans
joint Uzbek-US actions and projects.
Competent experts at the Russian Federation's military department consider
the possibility of Russian troops collaborating with US subunits in
eliminating terrorists in Afghanistan unfeasible. The experience of the
1979-1989 Afghan war and the two Chechen campaigns attests that this is
Moscow is not interested in a US troop presence in Central Asia because it
has its own geopolitical interests in the region. It is not known
officially how interested Tashkent is. However, it is obvious that
Uzbekistan's geopolitical position is such that US military aircraft can
only fly there with Russia's consent since there is simply no other
Russian economics minister confirms Russia's free market aspirations
Moscow, 26th November: The Russian government's economic programme is
at the creation of a real market based on private initiative, a step the
country needs, Russian Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref
Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Gref noted, recently spoke about the
government's intentions to pursue reforms that would make it possible to
build a market based on private initiative in the next four years. In
to attain that goal, this basic principle is to be put into practice:
liberate private initiative and overcome the obstacles that bureaucrats
currently put in its way", Gref said on Sunday [26th November] on the
[Russian TV and Radio] state television "Zerkalo" programme.
The implementation of the programme planned will help overcome poverty and
significantly improve social conditions, raising peoples' real incomes
than twofold in the coming 10 years, Gref said. The successful
implementation of this programme will also make it possible to normalize
the investment climate in Russia, he argued.
Serious investments need to be attracted to create fundamentally new
economic sectors in Russia, Gref said.
In a number of leading countries, enterprises and companies have emerged
lately that operate several times more efficiently than entire industrial
spheres, Gref said. He cited as an example of this the US company
Microsoft, whose production, he said, is tenfold greater than that of the
entire US steel industry.
Russia has good laws but they should be carried out - UK ambassador
Source: Centre TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 26 Nov 00
[Presenter] Leading Russian companies are now aware of their social
responsibility in business. This is one of the conclusions drawn at the
discussion held within the framework of international round tables devoted
to the topic.
[Correspondent] Representatives of Russian and foreign business circles
not sign any agreements or stike any bargains at this meeting. The
participants of the round table were facing a similarly important task:
the businessman's image in and outside Russia can be changed.
The majority of those present believe that the "new Russians"
in jokes, once and for all. However, Western entrepreneurs think that
Russian colleagues should resolve social programmes more intensely. At the
same time, the authorities should meet businessmen halfway.
[Omitted: Vladimir Potanin, chairman of the Interros board of directors,
[Correspondent] Russian Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko has
assured the round table that a special tri-partite commission will resolve
these problems. The commission will consist of representatives of business
circles and the authorities.
[Omitted: Matviyenko on the same]
[Correspondent] European business circles' representatives have stressed
that the former distrust to Russian economy and business is gradually
disappearing. Western businessmen are more willing to cooperate with
[Sir Roderick Lyne, Britain's ambassador to Russia, speaking in Russian]
Western businessmen will make up their minds to invest money in Russian
economy when they see a reliable law framework and its execution. Russia
has got a good legislation but businessmen are concerned with the
fulfilment of laws.
[Correspondent] The round table participants believe that the most
important thing for the state is not to change the rules of the game so
often. This is the key to openness between the authorities, business and
[Video shows interviews; roundtable in session]
The Russia Journal
November 25-December 1, 2000
SEASON OF DISCONTENT: Dealing with the Russian patient
By Andrei Piontkovsky
At the APEC summit in Brunei, President Vladimir Putin said that U.S.
President Bill Clinton had made a "breakthrough" in U.S.-Russian
and expressed the hope that his successor "would pick up the baton of
friendly, partnership-based relations and carry it onward."
At the same time, Putin's defense minister, his Navy chief commander,
propagandists and spin doctors continued their efforts to inculcate in the
minds of the Russian public the absurd myth that the Kursk sunk after
colliding with an American submarine. In this, they fanned primitive
It would be too easy to put these large-scale "active measures"
just the military's cynical desire to shift responsibility for its own
incompetence to an "external enemy," or to the propagandists'
wish to keep
the population in a zombie-like state of permanent patriotic arousal.
But such passionate belief, involving switching off the last of one's
thinking functions and accepting the crazy story of the secret phone
conversation during which Clinton supposedly admitted his country's guilt
to Putin, is good only for self-delusion - especially when there is a huge
desire to be deluded and when the myth of global rivalry with NATO, the
"aggressive bloc," serves as a fertile source of personal
The Russian political "elite" suffers from chronic fragmentation
consciousness, loss of self-identity and manic-depression. It displays
these clinical symptoms over and over again.
Just as the summit in Brunei opened, state TV channels began their news
broadcasts with a report couched in a parody of Sovinformbiuro language of
the Great Patriotic War era and read with the intonations of Levitan:
Nov. 9, 2000, in the Sea of Japan, approximately 600 km southeast of
Vladivostok, two IL-38 reconnaissance planes flown by Deputy Regiment
Commander for Flight Security Lt. Col. Nail Safikanov and Deputy Squadron
Commander Maj. Gennady Zhukov flew over and photographed the aircraft
carrier USS Kitty Hawk and escort ships. The Russian pilots who took part
in this operation have been nominated for government decorations."
Trusted correspondents spent the next few days filling various newspapers
with stories of how the pathetic Americans ran about in panic on the deck
of their aircraft carrier.
The issue isn't the flight itself. Maybe it was a "necessary training
exercise," though photographs of all aircraft carriers have long been
contained in military informational directories. The issue is the
patriotism" that swept if not the nation, then at least the state
outlets. This is a symptom of the mentality of some Third World
dictatorship's elite - a dose of schadenfreude at the chance to play a
nasty trick on someone.
The foreign policy objective that the Russian Foreign Ministry has put the
most effort into over recent years is removal of U.N. sanctions against
Iraq. Once these sanctions are gone, Iraqi oil will flush the world
markets, sending prices tumbling and bringing the fragile mirage of
economic recovery down with it. But it would be such a brilliant
victory over the "main adversary."
This pathological anti-Americanism of our "elite" flows easily
pro-American toadying and back again. This is no surprise, as the two
things have the same root - the elite's inferiority complex and lack of
own world view.
Thomas Pickering, who visited Russia in October, was easily able to tempt
Moscow by appealing to nostalgia for a coupling of two superpowers.
Pickering's calls for a joint fight against fundamentalism in Central Asia
acted on Russia like when an old horse hears the call of the horns into
battle, and after Pickering's visit, Russian activity on the Tajik-Afghan
border picked up noticeably.
But the Americans are only interested in one man in this region - Osama
Laden. Once bin Laden has been eliminated, whether by an American missile
or a Russian swat team, the United States will lose all interest in the
joint fight against the Taliban. What's more, they will have nothing to
in the way of cooperating with the Taliban regime on transporting gas from
Turkmenistan to the Indian Ocean. Russia, meanwhile, will find itself
into a hopeless and exhausting conflict that will drag on for years if not
The United States has learned how to apply an instrumental approach to the
complexes of the Russian elite. Perhaps this was the Clinton
The new administration will adopt a very polite and well-intentioned tone
when talking to us, but at the same time, it will be firm, as befits a
professional psychotherapist when talking with an almost hopeless patient.
(Andrei Piontkovsky is director of the Center of Strategic Research.)
Program on New Approaches to Russian Security
Policy Memo Series
Series Editor: Erin Powers
Memo No. 150
Alexander Solzhenitsyn as a Mirror of the Russian Counter-Revolution
By Eduard Ponarin
European University at St. Petersburg--October 2000
Eduard D. Ponarin is associate Professor of Sociology at European
in St. Petersburg.
Seemingly worried about recent trends in Russian government policies that
call into question freedom of speech and private property, Anatoly
pioneer of Russian economic reforms--suddenly declared this September that
the government was unduly influenced by the ideas of Aleksandr
A few weeks later, Chubais' pronouncement received unexpected confirmation
a televised meeting between President Vladimir Putin and the dissident
writer. Apparently, President Putin is in search of a political identity
ideological legitimation. In the absence of realistic alternatives,
Solzhenitsyn's ideology may indeed become a principal element of the
Russian identity--not only at the governmental level, but also for
Solzhenitsyn and Contemporary Russia
During Stalin's era, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spent several years in Soviet
concentration camps. He became famous in the wake of Nikita Khrushchev's
short-lived thaw as an author of fiction and documentary prose that
the horrors of the Stalinist reparations. When the thaw was over, he was
stripped of Soviet citizenship and exiled to the West. Once there,
Solzhenitsyn surprised many Westerners with his outspoken criticisms of
Western society before going into seclusion in Vermont. He returned to
in the late 1990s.
Solzhenitsyn came back to the fore of political activism while the Soviet
Union was collapsing, when he published an essay arguing for a unification
Russia with Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. In his last book, published
1998 soon after his triumphant return to Russia, he delivered a scathing
criticism of Russian reforms, accused Western countries (in particular the
US) of capitalizing on Russian misery, and warned that the survival of the
Russian people itself was jeopardized. According to Solzhenitsyn, it is
Orthodox religion--a bottom-up vertical line of local government similar
that introduced by Aleksandr II in the 1860s--and the spirit of the nation
that collectively can deliver us from the current predicament; a triad not
too different from the classic "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and
Furthermore, extreme forms of nationalism, such as fascism, seem to him a
highly unlikely scenario in Russia. To the contrary, he seems to believe
a major problem of Russia is its weak national consciousness, which he
is exacerbated by attacks from the liberal media, including Radio Liberty,
any manifestations of Russian nationalism.
Both the domestic and international environment seem favorable for the
realization of Solzhenitsyn's ideas:
Russian liberals by and large have discredited themselves and cannot put
forward a leader equal in standing to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Liberal
that criticized some of the recent changes in Russian politics and
including Radio Liberty, are being disciplined;
The leadership of Belarus seems to be a step ahead of the Russian
as far as unification plans are concerned;
Kazakhstan--along with some landlocked Central Asian countries dependent
Russian routes and resources, and scared by Islamic fundamentalists in and
beyond Afghanistan--has recently entered into a closer alliance with
More independent-minded but poorly governed and lacking energy resources,
Ukraine is cornered by the world oil crisis and the apparent willingness
the East European governments to circumvent Ukraine's transit pipelines
Russia. With a cold winter a few months ahead and both internal and
pressures growing, Ukraine seems to be only a step away from a major
reevaluation of its foreign policy;
In Russia's ideological void, the role of the Russian Orthodox Church has
been growing steadily;
The Russian president seeks Solzhenitsyn's advice on reform of the
Russian society is getting increasingly nationalist.
Or, was President Putin's visit to Solzhenitsyn's home merely a clever
relations event aimed at distancing the government from unpopular
Indeed, it could bring the government a few political points just before a
rather austere draft budget went before the State Duma. Yet there seems to
more than just a coincidence between the ideas expressed in Aleksandr
Solzhenitsyn's political essays and the general direction of developments
taking place in Russia since the anti-Communist revolution of 1991. Due to
the liberal revolution's failure to deliver better lives to people,
increasing segments of the frustrated Russian establishment (and of
at large) are looking for an alternative solution to Russia's problems. A
counter-revolution is now unfolding in Russia which finds legitimacy in
sort of ideology Solzhenitsyn preaches.
Dangers of the Counter-Revolution
So, is Solzhenitsyn an ingenious prophet who foresaw post-Soviet
even before the ultimate collapse of the Communist system? Perhaps he is.
here are some considerations elucidating the potential dangers associated
with the ongoing counter-revolution that Solzhenitsyn's work never
The Danger of Power-Enforced Cohesion in the Post-Soviet Space
The collapse of the USSR was relatively peaceful because the federal
was weaker than its constituent republics. Indeed, the leadership of the
Russian republic under Boris Yeltsin was instrumental in the demise of the
Soviet Union, as it took the side of other republics against the center
(personified by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev). The Russian people,
being the dominant element in the union, had little or no animosity toward
other peoples. These days, the situation has reversed. The Russian
Federation--which would now play the role of the power center--is stronger
than any of the potential union members. On the other hand, it is highly
unlikely that these independent states entering various unions will fully
forsake their independence. Rather, they will try and negotiate a status
of proportion with their resources. That would no longer be a Soviet
but rather one like Yugoslavia. Serbia, internally powerful and surrounded
weaker neighbors, was increasingly frustrated by its modest position
the Yugoslav federation, and tempted to use power to enforce its
The situation finally exploded in bloodshed. The Russian Federation must
careful to avoid such an outcome. A nationalist Russia may find it much
harder to keep the peace in its borderlands than did the older imperialist
The Danger of Extreme Forms of Nationalism
Likewise, it is no longer true that the Russian people have little or no
animosity toward other peoples. Russians who found themselves beyond the
borders of the Russian Federation (and sometimes even within, as in the
Chechen Republic) have experienced a sharp status reversal. Many of those
found the situation especially unbearable migrated to Russia proper where
they shared their less than pleasant experiences with other Russians. In
addition to bitterness against their former socialist compatriots, there
feeling (expressed by Solzhenitsyn among others), of being betrayed or
exploited by the major world powers. The combination resembles post-World
I Germany, which has found expression in the term "Weimar
potentially provides a fertile ground for various extremist ideologues.
embracing the ideology of Russian nationalism, which may be unavoidable
even useful, the Russian leadership has to be careful not to allow extreme
shades of nationalism in socially accepted discourse.
The Danger of Silencing the Press
Whereas many people are no doubt happy to see the humiliation of formerly
powerful media magnates, silencing the media is destroying a useful
of societal self-regulation. The profoundly undemocratic nature of the
Russian establishment--the character of which has changed little since the
late Soviet era--is incompatible with the bottom-up government system
proposed by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In the absence of independent media,
democratic institutions will degenerate into self-sufficient and
self-interested bureaucracies, and Solzhenitsyn's vision will remain a
Solzhenitsyn is a nationalist counter-revolutionary. He passionately
against both the Bolshevik takeover of 1917 (even if ex post facto) and
liberal revolution of the early nineties. His views, however, would not be
very popular if Russian liberals succeed by enacting reforms that better
lot of the masses. It is the failure of liberal reforms and the resulting
incapacity of Russia to benefit from the global prosperity of the
post-Cold-War period that have made Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn a mirror of the
24 November 2000.
John Sweeney works for The Observer newspaper and has visited Chechnya
twice this year. He has won an Emmy and a British Journalist of the Year.
This report was written for Cryptome. Responses, critiques and additional
evidence welcomed, especially from Russia and Chechnya: anonymous
contributions invited. Send-to information at cryptome.org.
November 24, 2000
THE FIFTH BOMB: DID PUTIN'S SECRET POLICE BOMB MOSCOW IN A DEADLY BLACK
John Sweeney on the evidence that the old KGB deliberately planted bombs
Moscow and blamed them on Chechen terrorists.
The secret policeman stood on the edge of a field of rubble and burnt
wreckage, the ruins of what had been only the night before a block of
He looked Central Casting's idea of a KGB operative, sporting a cowpat
hairdo, a cheap black raincoat, black tie, lean, tall, clean shaven,
saturnine. They call the KGB the FSB these days, a new name for the Soviet
state's old organ of terror.
There had been two bombs in Moscow in four days. The first bomb exploded
just after midnight at a block of flats at Guryanov Street. It killed 92
Muscovites sleeping in their beds in the early morning of 9th September,
1999. Several bodies were rocketed into the surrounding streets. By
daybreak people could see the sad detritus of the atrocity: children's
clothes, a sofa hanging off a ledge in what had been someone's living
open to the sky, books, pictures scattered far and wide. Broken glass
crackled underfoot in all the surrounding streets. The edge of fear in
Moscow was tangible.
Four days later the second bomb blew up a similar block of flats at
Kashirskoye Highway at five in the morning. The wounded, shocked, painted
in dust, as semi-naked as when they went to sleep, a night and a lifetime
ago, were carried off in stretchers. The most haunting image was of a man
quite blackened by soot from a fire, crawling on his hands and knees
through the wreckage: more beast than man. He survived. 130 other
in the block of flats - men, women, children - did not.
Enter the secret policeman. He walked up to the TV cameras and presented
the compound eye of lenses a black and white e-fit picture. The e-fit
depicted a Chechen man, with a fleshy face, almost Buddha-like in its
plumpness, swarthy skin and tinted spectacles. This was the Chechen
terrorist the authorities were blaming for the bomb. He was using the name
of Mukhit Laipanov, who had recently rented ground floor space in the two
apartment blocks devastated by the bombs. The real Laipanov died in a car
crash earlier in 1999. The authorities were very quick to pin the blame on
a group of Chechen trained terrorists. It was the Chechens who did it -
that was the instant effect of the secret policeman's e-fit. It was posted
up all around the bus stops of Moscow. The Russian authorities have yet to
produce a single solid piece of evidence to support their theory that
Chechen terrorists blew up Moscow. No-one has been tried, no chain of
evidence explained. A few men have been arrested, but none of the alleged
'ring-leaders'. Three days after the second bomb, the bulldozers moved in,
obliterating the sites and also destroying evidence against the bombers.
Two more bombs had exploded in cities in southern Russia. The four bombs
together killed more than 300 people in less than two weeks.
There was a fifth bomb. This one didn't go off. But the fifth bomb -
by photographs of its detonator shown above - provides hard evidence
challenges the official 'Chechen version' of the Moscow bomb outrages. The
fifth bomb points the other way: that the KGB-FSB bombed Moscow
deliberately to blacken the name of the Chechens as a pretext for the
second Chechen war.
The photographs of a detonator, taken by a Russian bomb squad, and other
fresh evidence point to a plot carried out by the FSB working to assist
their old spymaster, Vladimir Putin, in his rise to control the world's
number two superpower and its nuclear arsenal.
When the two Moscow bombs went off, Putin had just been appointed prime
minister by President Yeltsin. With no public track record, the former
secret policeman was widely mocked as a political nobody, a cold, faceless
Kremlin insider who had spent 16 years in the KGB and had emerged as the
chief of its successor, the FSB. Boris Kagarlitsky is a seasoned Kremlin
watcher in Moscow: 'You cannot turn a bureaucrat into a glamorous person.
He is as grey as he used to be. There is a propaganda machine which works
but that is exactly the weakness of Putin, because as a politician he is a
nobody. To be a politician you need some kind of past.'
Matt Ivens, editor of the Moscow Times, thought the same: 'Yeltsin had
through a couple of prime ministers and each time he dropped them he made
it clear that it had something to do with elections.
By the end he's picking Vladimir Putin. No one has ever heard of Putin,
except very careful watchers of politics or people from St. Petersberg.
He's announcing "this is my successor, this is a man who can run the
country" and there is widespread ridicule. All the newspapers in town
including ours said, there's no way this guy could win an election, unless
something really extraordinary is going to happen.'
The Moscow bombs were the extraordinary thing.
Putin struck out in the immediate aftermath of the bombs: 'Those that have
done this don't deserve to be called animals. They are worse . they are
beasts and they should be treated as such.'
His poll ratings soared, and he struck again: 'we will waste them. Even
when they are on the bog.' This was pure gangsterese, but it went down a
treat with the Russian public. Putin was working with the grain of Russian
racism. For centuries, the Muslim renegades from the savage rocks of the
Caucases have been the folk devils of Russia. The nineteenth century poet
Lermontov wrote a lullaby which has stuck in the Russian mind:
'The Terek streams over boulders,
the murky waves splash;
a wicked Chechen crawls on to the bank
and sharpens his kinzhal;
But your father is an old warrior
forged in battle;
sleep my darling, be calm,
The Chechens had humiliated the might of Russia in the first Chechen War,
which Yeltsin had started in a drunken rage in 1994. They had kidnapped
killed mnay Russian soldiers, sometimes in a bloody and disgusting
The Islamic terror
Now it was the turn of the old guard, the Russian military and the FSB, to
get their own back. And the Chechens were wasted, Grozny mulched to
again, their economy annihilated, their ecology destroyed, their men shot
and tortured and dumped in pits - to this day.
The tanks started to roll, and the war in Chechnya which has seen a
victory at the expense of thousands of civilian lives, began.
Putin's brisk, savage reaction to the Moscow bombs made him a Russian
superstar. The Chechens lost everything they had gained from the first
One Chechen view is this: 'if we had wanted to bomb Moscow, we would have
blown up the Kremlin or a nuclear power station. Why should we blow up a
couple of blocks of flats?' Putin's tough guy stance saw his opinion poll
ratings rocket from close to zero to 70 per cent. Hugely popular, he was
anointed President of the Russian Federation by Boris Yeltsin on New's
Eve. Sick, drunk, a joke but not a funny one, Yeltsin bowed out, escaping
fraud and money-laundering investigation by the Swiss Chief Prosecutor
which was getting very close to his 'family' in the Kremlin.
Earlier in 1999 Special Prosecutor Yuri Skuratov had been hot on Yeltsin's
case. He had received damning evidence from the Swiss investigators,
evidence that put Yeltsin's daughter, Tatiana, directly in the frame. Then
he got a phone call. 'We've got you on tape. Resign, or you're finished.'
Skuratov refused to be blackmailed - and then Russia's TV millions saw him
being entertained by two young prostitutes. They saw their Special
Prosecutor lying on his back, naked, one of the woman on top of him, her
head bobbing up and down. It was a classic dirty trick.
And the man responsible? Skuratov said: 'As head of the FSB, Putin was one
of those who fought against me, who compromised me, who plotted to get me
off the case.'
The shaming of Skuratov finished off the Special Prosecutor, but not the
case. By August 1999, the evidence against Yeltsin and his family was
growing. It centred around an expensive refurbishment of the Kremlin, the
central allegation being that a Swiss businessman of Albanian origin had
supplied credit cards to members of Yeltsin's circle in return for the
contract. Worse, the evidence was in Swiss, not Russian, hands. Yeltsin's
popularity rating was hitting 2 per cent. At that point he promoted his
chief, Putin, and made him prime minister.
At the same time Russian TV showing a video of clip of Chechen guerrillas
purportedly torturing and killing Russian soldiers. The worst clip shows a
knife being put to the neck of a shaven-headed white man. Then his artery
is severed and one can see his blood drain from his face in close-up. The
next shot is of the man lying prone on the ground, to all intents and
purposes a corpse. There is no way of telling whether the victim was a
Russian soldier and the killers Chechen, no supporting evidence.
Nevertheless, this and other clips were shown on Russian TV repeatedly -
if someone in authority was minded to soften Russian public opinion
the Chechens. And this happened before the bomb outrages.
The first came in the southern city of Buinaksk, killing 62 in September
4th, 1999. Then came the two bombs in Moscow, then a fourth that killed 17
in the southern city of Volgodonsk on September 16th.
The Russian government's case that Chechen terrorists or Chechen-backed
terrorists bombed Moscow and the two towns in southern Russia was spelt
by Vladimir Kozlov, head of the FSB's anti-terrorism department, in a
Moscow press conference a year after the outrages. Kozlov said that the
terrorists were members of a radical Islamic sect, led by one Achemez
Gochiyayev, who was paid $500,000 by the feared Chechen warlord Khattab.
recruited Yusuf Krymshamkhalov and Denis Saitakov to deliver the Moscow
blasts. None of these men have been arrested. But two other men have been:
Taukan Frantsuzov and Ruslan Magayayev. The evidence against them, when or
if it comes before the courts, is keenly awaited.
The terrorists were trained in Chechnya, then dispatched to neighbouring
North Caucasian republics, such as Karachayevo-Cherkassia, with tons of
explosives, said the FSB. There, they rented trucks and smuggled the
explosives to Moscow, usually camouflaged as sugar, potatoes or some other
produce. Most of the bombs were made of a mixture of potassium nitrate and
aluminium powder, with Casio watches used as timers, according to Kozlov.
FSB detectives say they also found 500 kilograms of this mixture near the
Chechen city of Urus-Martan in December, 1999, citing this as proof that
those responsible for the attacks were not only trained in Khattab's camps
in Chechnya, but also obtained explosives there.
Common sense says it would be madness for a group of Chechens to smuggle
explosives all the way from Urus-Martan to Moscow. Since the first Chechen
war, Chechens are routinely singled out for harrassment by Russian police,
vehicles stopped and searched, identity papers demanded. Besides, there
long been a strong Chechen mafia in Moscow, very capable of getting its
hands on arms or explosives locally. In Russia, you can bribe your way
a nuclear rocket silo or buy the list of the lost sailors of the doomed
submarine, the Kursk. The 'Chechen terrorists' would have been risking a
great deal by hauling their explosives roughly 1,000 miles to Moscow, when
they could have bought them locally.
Six of the suspects, including those for the bombs in southern Russia,
been killed in fighting with federal forces in southern Russia. Dead men
don't tell tales. Much of the evidence presented at the FSB news
But the FSB's official version of the bomb outrages starts to fall apart
when you examine the case of the fifth bomb. The story of its discovery,
defusal and denial casts huge doubts on the Kremlin's line.
Around 9pm at night on 22 September in the provincial city of Ryazan, 100
miles south east of Moscow, Vladimir Vasiliev, an engineer coming home for
the night noticed three strangers acting suspiciously by the basement of
his block of flats at 14/16 Novosyolov Street, literally New Settlers
Street. Vasiliev said: 'A white was parked outside the entrance, with the
boot towards the entrance. In the car were two men, young men, also young,
about 20 or 25 years old.'
Vasiliev noticed that the last two digits of the car number plate had been
stuck on with paper, showing 62, the Ryazan regional code. Underneath the
paper was the true plate number, giving a Moscow code. Vasiliev, puzzled,
decided to call the police. 'As we were waiting for the lift and it was
empty, one of the young guys got out of the car and the girl asked:
you done everything?" "Yes." "OK, let's go." And
they got into the car and
quite quickly left.'
Vasiliev observed the three in the car with the mismatched plates. 'I
remember the driver sat at the wheel, quite thin, with a moustache, and
other man was heavier. The girl had blond hair, cut short, wearing sports
clothes and a leather jacket. They were Russian, absolutely, not Asiatic.'
The police arrived. Inspector Andrei Chernyshev from the local police was
the first to enter the basement. He said: 'we had a signal from a man on
duty. It was about 10 in the evening. There were some strangers who were
seen leaving the basement from the Building 14/16 at Novosyolovo Street.
were met by the girl who stood by the building. She told us about the men
who came out from the basement and left with the car with a licence number
which was covered with paper. I went down to the basement. This block of
flats had a very deep basement which was completely covered with water. We
could see sacks of sugar and in them some electronic device, a few wires
and a clock. We were shocked. We ran out of the basement and I stayed on
watch by the entrance and my officers went to evacuate the people.'
Grandmother Clara Stepanovna recalled that night: 'the neighbours began to
knock at the door and said: "get out fast, something's been planted
underneath us." We quickly grabbed what we could and leapt out. My
leaped out not dressed, without stockings, without tights, not anything,
just flung a jacket on. The kids also dashed out not dressed. They held us
away from the block of flats and started investigating. They didn't give
permission to come near.'
Vasiliev said: 'After we were standing in the square, my wife remembered
that she hadn't switched off the stove, so I went up to an MVD officer to
tell him. We went up in the lift. He told me they had really had found a
device.' (MVD stands for Ministerstvo Vnutrennykh Del, the Interior
Yuri Tkachenko, head of the local bomb squad, went down into the basement.
'For me it was a live bomb. I was in a combat situation,' he said. He
tested the three sugar sacks in the basement with his MO-2 portable gas
analyser, and got a positive reading for Hexogen, the explosive used in
The timer of the detonator was set for 5.30am, which would have killed
of the 250 tenants of the 13-storey block of flats.
The sacks were taken out of the basement at around 1.30 in the morning and
driven away by the FSB. But the secret police left the detonator in the
hands of the bomb squad. They photographed it later that day.
As the residents were finally allowed back into to their homes at seven in
the morning, one of the policemen let Mrs Stepanovna see what was left.
said: 'there was a bit left, and the policeman said: "there, that's
That's the stuff that was meant to blow you up.'
The local police arrested two men that night, according to Boris
Kagarlitsky, a member of the Russian Institute of Comparative Politics.
'FSB officers were caught red-handed while planting the bomb. They were
arrested by the police and they tried to save themselves by showing FSB
Then, headquarters of the FSB in Moscow intervened. The two men were
quietly let go.
The next day, on September 24, the FSB in Moscow announced that there had
never been a bomb, only a training exercise. There was no hexogen, only
sugar. Pro-Kremlin newspapers reported that the Ryazan bomb squad had made
a mistake when they detected hexogen. One newspaper commented that perhaps
they hadn't washed their tester, a remark to which Tkachenko the bomb
disposal expert replied: 'it wasn't an enema. There are two sources of
radiation in the tester. These people don't know what they are talking
Alexander Sergeyev, head of the Ryazan regional FSB, said, when asked
the training exercise: 'the decision wasn't taken by our local FSB. If it
was a training exercise, it was done for everyone to check the combat
readiness of all the towns in Russia. Nobody told us it was a training
exercise and we didn't receive a call that it was over. For two days and
nights, we didn't receive any documents or order that it was finished.'
Officially, the Minister of Interior has forbidden the police and the FSB
from talking about the bomb that never was. But few believe the Kremlin's
version that it was only a training exercise.
Vasiliev said: 'I heard the official version on the radio, when the press
secretary of the FSB announced that it was a training exercise. It felt
extremely unpleasant. A lot of neighbours started to call me and say:
you hear that?" I heard it, but I cannot believe it.'
The credibility of the FSB version of events hangs on the notion of a
training exercise. Why use real hexogen and a real detonator in a dummy
bomb? If was just a training exercise, why turn out the residents of the
block of flats for a sleepless night? And why should the Ryazan bomb squad
be so concerned about a dummy detonator that they took a photograph of it?
The concern of locals deepened when the newspaper Novaya Gazeta alleged
that sacks of hexogen were found at a military base in Ryazan. The paper
reported that a paratrooper on guards duty at a weapons warehouse outside
the city discovered piles of sacks labelled sugar. He opened one of the
bags and tried to use the white powder to sweeten his tea, only to recoil
at the taste. An explosives expert called in to examine the bags declared
that they contained hexogen.
Putin has declared: 'there is nobody in the Russian special services
capable of committing such a crime against our people. It is immoral even
to consider such a possibility. In fact, this is nothing but an element of
the information war against Russia.'
His problem is that the residents of the Ryazan block of flats, among
others, do not believe his word or the word of the FSB on the matter.
CDI Russia Weekly: http://www.cdi.org/russia
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