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Scheme for Producing and Selling Explosives at Lubyanka Revealed
Novaya Gazeta
22 October 2001
[translation for personal use only]

Investigation. The Building Where Hexogen Was Sold Is in the Center of Moscow, on Bolshaya Lubyanka
By Pavel Voloshin

How records of explosives are kept.

Sometimes the militarized agencies speak the truth. The Russian special services really do know EVERYTHING about the Moscow explosions of 1999.

The targets, the agents, and those who ordered the terrorist acts can be traced by the origin of the explosives. Traffic in explosive substances in Russia is under strict state control. One cannot cross the border with a smuggled 100 kilograms of hexogen. Setting up its manufacture in a mountainous village out of materials at hand is technically impossible. One needs one's own supply network to support major terrorist acts. To put it simply, before something can be blown up, an industrial-size batch of explosives must be acquired.

In theory no one can secretly "de-register" a couple of tonnes of explosives. It is virtually impossible to "hide" a batch of hexogen outside of existing regulations. On the basis of a special Russian government decree, all transactions involving explosive substances go through the AO [joint-stock company] Nitro-Vzryv [Nitro-Explosion] and careful records are kept.

But! There is the possibility of "running" any batch of explosives through under the classification "raw material for scientific research."

Lubyanka is not only the FSB [Federal Security Service]. Services of the Ministry of Internal Affairs occupy some of the buildings of the Lubyanka complex. Located in one of them was an inconspicuous Ministry of Education scientific research institute with a name strange for teachers, Roskonversvzryvtsentr [RF Explosives Conversion Center]. This establishment was created at the initiative of Kinelev and Tikhonov, the leaders of education at that time, during the general fascination with the theory of conversion of the Soviet Union's enormous military reserves. Of course, the destruction of expired ammunition is additional work. It is much more profitable to make industrial explosives and other things the economy needs out of it. It is true, however, that the technology for recycling each particular type of explosive substance had to be developed first. The military did not have such knowledge.

But then civilian scientific-research institutes by that time had many years of accumulated work in the area of chemical technologies. So the new center for recycling the ammunition was assigned specifically to the Ministry of Education. It seemed perfectly logical at the time.

The Little Building on Lubyanka

There were, however, certain features in the status of Roskonversvzryvtsentr that were not clear. The institute did not adapt to its first address, on Pionerskaya Ulitsa [Street]. The building was given to Interpol. But then the Ministry of Internal Affairs KhOZU [administrative and supply administration] helped and offered the explosives workers a little building on Bolshaya Lubyanka. And in fact, in addition the institute received nine telephone numbers from the police switchboard to use free of charge to support large-scale national economic activity. Moreover, the usually tight-fisted economic administration would not take the money out of principle. But then some of the KhOZU associates received monetary allowances from Roskonversvzryvtsentr.

The Ministry of Education had an extremely indirect relation to the work of its institute. By definition the ministry officials could not monitor the energetic work of Roskonversvzryvtsentr director Shchukin. The problem was that in accordance with its designation, the institute would conclude contracts with military units to recycle ammunition. And a civilian minister simply has no right to check military contracts. For that same reason, the Ministry of Defense did not intervene in the work of the civilian institute. And the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under whose wing Roskonversvzryvtsentr neutralized the ammunition that was written off, simply did not pay any attention to some of the "pranks" of its director for certain reasons.

Capitalism is a contagious thing. It is a poor director who does not want to become a businessman. The head of Roskonversvzryvtsentr managed to put the conversion work on a firm commercial basis. To put it simply, instead of developing new conversion technologies, the institute developed extensive trade in what it was supposed to recycle.

The scheme for recycling the explosive substances looks like this: a military unit with an excess of ammunition with an expired expiration date concludes a special contract with Roskonversvzryvtsentr at the order of the Ministry of Defense. Then the institute's officials treat the written-off explosives with the appropriate compounds and the relatively safe product obtained as a result is used for scientific purposes.

In fact, the process of conversion of the outdated ammunition occurred somewhat differently. In most cases the Roskonversvzryvtsentr specialists did not work on practical recycling. The expired gunpowder, trotyl, and other dangerous substances were treated on site by temporary brigades and then sent to the consumer. Roskonversvzryvtsentr formally acted as the buyer of the explosives. But actually the buyer was organizations involved in developing the earth's interior.

That is startling, but according to certain documents, tonnes of explosives were sent directly to the capital. To 18 Bolshaya Lubyanka Street, Building 3. Right under the windows of the FSB Administration for Moscow and Moscow Oblast.

Only one man knew exactly where the tonnes of explosive substances really went, the director of the institute Shchukin.

Actually trafficking in explosive substances is categorically prohibited in our country. So according to the Roskonversvzryvtsentr documents, the inactive trotyl blasting cartridges and hexogen were recorded as innocent scientific-technical products. And anyone can sell the result of their own scientific research. Especially if the following wording is placed in the "designation" column: "for future experiments." The lethally dangerous explosives simply disappeared from the field of view of the appropriate organs. Especially since dangerous cargo was frequently re-marked for ease of shipping. Much more dangerous substances were hauled disguised as neutralized artillery powder. And the transport process itself was conducted without excess noise. Two rail carloads of explosives with buffers on the edges. Or using vans. The output of Roskonversvzryvtsentr traveled throughout the entire country. On the same roads as scheduled buses and packed electric commuter trains.

The explosives were shipped out by the tonne. The Ministry of Education's scientific-research institute Roskonversvzryvtsentr operated like a wholesale trade company. But the specifics of the trade bordered on madness. Under official contracts alone, director Shchukin provided the "scientific" output of his institute to most of the mining-enrichment enterprises of Russia and Belarus. From 1998 through 2000, Shchukin concluded 311 contracts, and a large part of them involved the delivery of 23,161 tonnes of explosive substances. The income from trade came to more than 90 million rubles [R]. Shchukin did not pay tax on profits.

The money earned from the trotyl and gunpowder was laundered using schemes traditional for Russian capitalism. In 1998, for example, the Belarusian RUPP Granit alone received more than 250 tonnes of explosive substances from Roskonversvzryvtsentr. In exchange the miners shipped crushed granite. The director of the explosives scientific-research institute Shchukin sent it to the Lithuanian firms Panevezhis Kelyay and Gatvyu Statiba. The offshore company Selenium and the American HUKO participated in the matter. Of course, passing through a long chain of intermediaries, the money for the gravel was not repaid to the institute.

The business developed rapidly. The bombings of the Moscow residential buildings in 1999 did not affect the explosives trade. At any rate, after the tragedy on Ulitsa Guryanova, the number of contracts for supplying explosive substances did not diminish.

Director Shchukin's trade activity stopped only in May 2000, after RF Minister of Education Vladimir Filippov took an interest in the affairs of the institute subordinate to him. The audit he scheduled not only revealed the very large scope of the trade in explosives, but also elementary theft. Even jute bags had disappeared. The accounting office did not record information on income and expenditures at all. No taxes were paid to the state budget on the trade transactions. No one knows where a large part of the earnings ended up. And while the appropriate organs deliberately ignored the explosives trafficking, they did not forgive Shchukin for failing to pay taxes. After studying the ledgers of Roskonversvzryvtsentr, the tax police started a criminal case under Article 1999 of the RF Criminal Code.

A ministerial commission is made up of civilian people. They do not have the potential clout of tax officials. They were not able to get back the institute's squandered money. The chief result of the audit was the firing of the director, who had gone too far. Right after Shchukin's resignation, the illegal explosives trafficking stopped. It soon became clear that the director's dismissal stopped the delivery of a much more dangerous explosive, the A-IX-1 substance.

It turns out that besides "recycling" the inactive trotyl blasting cartridges and artillery powder, the institute had issued authorizations to obtain hexogen.

After the director was gotten rid of, Roskonversvzryvtsentr received a request from the GO ChS [Civil Defense and Emergency Situations Office] of Tver Oblast to extend the authorization "to obtain and transport 1 tonne of the explosive substance A-IX-1," that is, hexogen. The explosive was to be obtained from Military Unit N 68586. It is unclear why they needed hexogen in Tver. It is used only for military purposes. Or terror. It certainly cannot be used to blow up obstructions and work ore deposits. The Tver administration of the FSB conducted its own inspection for evidence of an attempt to sell hexogen. The results of it are not known.

Hexogen trafficking is not the same as stealing jute bags. One departmental commission alone is not enough. In addition, a civilian ministry could not check director Shchukin's military contracts. Minister Filippov was forced to appeal for help.

The education minister's first appeal was addressed to the GUVD [Main Internal Affairs Administration] of Moscow. From there Filippov's petition was sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs GUBOP [Main Administration for Combating Organized Crime]. GUBOP, in turn, safely buried the minister's letter in its archives. All the subsequent appeals by the minister were even less productive. The FSB and the Security Council refused to investigate the institute's activity.

But then the Ministry of Internal Affairs took an interest in the explosives institute. It is true, however, that this interest was manifested very strangely. After director Shchukin had been fired, the economic administration of the Ministry suddenly recalled the lease payment for the Lubyanka office. The institute was asked to vacate the premises. And then at the initiative of the fighters against organized crime, a criminal case against the new management of Roskonversvzryvtsentr was started in August 2000. Moreover, it was precisely under Article 222 of the Criminal Code--"based on evidence of the illegal sale of explosive substances." GUBOP was not interested in the theft of jute bags and swindles involving the sale of carloads of gravel.

Dumping Shchukin's deeds on people who had just come to the institute did not work. In addition, any investigator who worked on this case would certainly have stumbled upon signs of the participation of high-ranking Ministry of Internal Affairs officials in the intrigues of Roskonversvzryvtsentr. The former director had strong protectors. Nelezin, the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs KhOZU, offered a free roof and free telephones to Roskonversvzryvtsentr. GUBOP first deputy chief Petukhov removed the education minister's petition from the Moscow GUVD Main Administration for Combating Economic Crimes. The Ministry of Internal Affairs Investigative Committee first deputy chief Zotov froze the investigation of the illegal trafficking in explosive substances that Shchukin had organized.

Today Shchukin is preparing to return to his previous post. Explosives trafficking does not tolerate long absences. The partners may not understand. Especially since the criminal case on illegal trafficking in explosive substances was dropped. It is true, however, that no one lifted responsibility for failure to pay taxes from Shchukin, but in our country that is not considered a serious crime. Compared to selling hexogen, it is a mere trifle.

And now the Simonovskiy Intermunicipal Court has decided that Shchukin is perfectly worthy of once again taking charge of Roskonversvzryvtsentr, which was about to be orphaned. Shchukin does not need much time. Two months or so would be enough to destroy the compromising material. No one would be the wiser, as the saying goes. At the same time, the debts can be collected from the contractors. And if something happens, the "cover" will cover them. The ability to "make cash" out of a carload of explosives with one stroke of the pen is too valuable a trait. Such people are protected. The first thing you know, it may be necessary to start some other "counterterrorist operation."

P.S. The editorial office is counting on the new Ministry of Internal Affairs leadership, which has already proven its adequacy to its tasks, to put an end to this story. And we will return to it very soon.

All Documents Will Go to the State Duma Committee for Combating Corruption

Recently we have been increasingly encountering, at long last, the truth about the activities of the executive workers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that Vladimir Rushaylo used to head.

The documents which the RF State Duma Commission for Combating Corruption has at its disposal confirm that my and Aleksandr Gurov's thesis "The Lion Jumped Into the 21st Century Already in Shoulderboards" (see Novaya Gazeta for January of this year) is finding the most bitter confirmation.

The RF Ministry of Internal Affairs under "cover" of the Ministry of Education created an office through which hexogen and other explosive substances went in an unknown direction.

Railroad cars (we have their numbers at our disposal) traveled throughout Russia. Vans that nobody knew existed traveled. We know the numbers of the military units whose commanders participated in this operation for money. We know the numbers of the responsible, very responsible leaders of the Ministry of Internal Affairs who one way or another participated in the unprecedented mafia operation.

Today we are all looking for the reasons for terrorism. What was done by the Ministry of Internal Affairs under the "cover," I repeat, of the Ministry of Education can help us find the answers to these questions.

On Tuesday I am delivering all the materials to my colleagues in the RF State Duma Commission for Combating Corruption.

Yuriy Shchekochikhin, deputy chairman of the RF State Duma Security Committee

Instead of Commentary

Press Release From the Moscow Government Committee on Telecommunications and the Mass Media

On Measures To Prevent Terrorist Acts in Moscow

A system of supplementary measures to guarantee security, keep public order, and oppose possible terrorist acts in connection with the terrorist acts conducted on 11 September on the territory of the United States has been developed in Moscow.

The Moscow government has received information from the militarized agencies which says that there is still a danger that terrorist acts may be conducted in Moscow. The decision has been made to take under special control tall buildings, nuclear power engineering facilities, main gas and oil pipelines, enterprises of the oil and chemical industry, hydroengineering structures (water intake stations, dams, and reservoirs), transport, sites where weapons, ammunition, explosives, and toxic substances are produced and stored, sites where masses of people congregate (markets, shopping centers, places of entertainment, and educational and preschool establishments), health care facilities, places where people live permanently or for an extended period of time (residential buildings, hotels, vacation lodges, and boarding hotels), and other potentially dangerous sites.

Moreover, inspections will be conducted in the city at scientific and medical establishments which do research with highly toxic substances or have strains of pathogenic organisms. Sanitary-epidemiological control is being intensified at food industry enterprises and life support facilities, including the city's water supply system.

The leaders of the structural subdivisions of the government of Moscow, prefectures, and rayon offices have been given the task of ensuring round-the-clock security at places where masses of people congregate. Transport and other control has been intensified on the subway and on other types of urban transport. Inspections are being conducted of attics and basements of residential buildings and nonresidential spaces, which will be sealed on a mandatory basis, as well as sample targeted inspections of housing sectors. Control over migration processes in the capital and the registration system for newly arrived citizens have been made tougher.

The Interdepartmental Antiterrorist Commission of the city of Moscow has been charged with coordinating the actions to ensure security in the city.

Muscovites themselves who may become suspicious that there is a possibility of a planned terrorist act are to report everything noticed to the city law enforcement organs or by telephone to the information-reference service of the Moscow government: 777-77-77.

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