Former ally links Putin to Moscow blasts

  • From: "Muslim News" <editor@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
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  • Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2002 06:10:50 -0000

Russia used a number of apartment block explosions in 1999 to engage in
a 'war against terrorism' in Chechnya, new evidence reveals that a long
held view of Russian involvement in the bombings has now been proved. 

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The Russian former media mogul Boris Berezovsky launched his strongest
attack yesterday on his one-time friend and now president, Vladimir
Putin, accusing him of being linked to the terrorist bombings of
apartment buildings that killed about 300 Russians in September 1999. 
Mr Berezovsky, now living in London, called a press conference to
produce a British explosives expert, a French documentary-maker, a
former Russian agent of the FSB (successor to the KGB), and a woman who
lost her mother in the blasts, to accuse the security service and demand
an official inquiry. 

"I am sure the bombings were organised by the FSB. It's not just
speculation. It's a clear conclusion", Mr Berezovsky said yesterday.
"I'm not saying Mr Putin gave an order to blow up those buildings. I'm
saying that at the least he knew the FSB was involved." 

Mr Putin, who was named prime minister shortly before the bombings after
heading the FSB, blamed the attacks on Chechens and used public outrage
to justify sending Russian forces into the rebel republic. Presenting
himself as a tough war leader, he won the presidential election in 2000.

Mr Berezovsky, who has lost his share in several Russian TV companies
since 2000, based his case on the professional nature of the bombings
and the large amount of explosives used. He also cited official
discrepancies after a foiled blast at a block of flats in Ryazan. 

A resident alerted the police after seeing three suspicious people
unloading bags into a basement a few days after the first explosion in
Moscow. The next day the interior minister said the police had defused a
timing device after finding explosives in the bags. But when the new FSB
chief said the bags contained sugar and had been planted as a drill to
test police vigilance, the hunt for suspects was called off. 

Mr Berezovsky was close to Boris Yeltsin, who was president at the time,
and used his TV stations to run a campaign in favour of Mr Putin.
Opponents claim his attack on Mr Putin is a personal vendetta after he
lost influence. 

"I didn't raise the matter until recently," he admitted yesterday. "I
didn't expect the security services could take part in such a crime." 

In a bid to pre-empt the allegations, a Moscow official said yesterday
that Mr Berezovsky was being investigated for links to Chechen rebels
and could be implicated in the murder of a senior Russian police officer
in Chechnya. 

Moscow may demand he be extradited from Britain or request an
international arrest warrant for him, Pavel Barkovsky of the
prosecutor-general's office told the Interfax news agency. "Berezovsky
is trying to present himself as a political fighter and to seek
attention by staging acts of political provocation," he added. 

New evidence indicated that Mr Berezovsky had supplied around $1m
(£700,000) to Chechen rebel warlords to buy weaponry, he claimed. 

Officials say they know who carried out the bombings and maintain they
were "Chechen terrorists", but the only two suspects to come to court
are non-Chechens. They were acquitted last year. 

The Russians have already issued a national arrest warrant for Mr
Berezovsky in connection with allegations of embezzlement from Aeroflot.

Source:  The Guardian

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