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Profile: Russian Federal Security Service (FSB)
Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) was a participant or observer in the following events:
Yeltsin and Putin [Source: BBC]Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismisses his prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, and the entire Russian government, naming Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister. Putin is the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the new name of the KGB. [BBC, 8/9/1999] For many observers, Stepashin was dismissed because he had been unable to become a politically viable heir to Yeltsin, who must step down in 2001. Putin, who is unknown to the public, seems to have been hand-picked mainly for his loyalty. [New York Times, 8/10/1999] The Russian news service Park.ru offers this fairly representative analysis: “Only a trusted person from one of the ‘power ministries’ can ensure the safety of Yeltsin’s entourage after his term in office, and the former FSB boss can prove indispensable.” [BBC, 8/9/1999]
In March 13, 2000, the Russian independent weekly Novaya Gazeta publishes a bombshell that re-ignites the Ryazan incident controversy (see September 22-24, 1999). A soldier named Alexei Pinyaev describes how during the autumn of 1999 he was stationed near Ryazan, a city about 100 miles south of Moscow, and given guard duty at a military warehouse. He says it contained large sacks marked “sugar” but when he and another soldier surreptitiously opened one of the bags to sweeten their tea, the powder tasted vile. They showed the powder to their commander who then turned it over to a bomb expert. The expert identified it as hexogen. Immediately afterwards, several high-ranking FSB officers arrived from Moscow and accused the soldiers of divulging state secrets. To the soldiers’ relief, they were not sent to prison but simply told to forget the whole matter and they were later sent to Chechnya. The story causes an uproar, finally forcing the government to respond to the Ryazan controversy (see March 23, 2000). [Satter, 2003, pp. 30]
The Kashirskoye Street bombing. [Source: AP/Terror99.ru]A powerful early-morning blast levels an apartment building on Kashirskoye Street, Moscow, killing 118 people. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov blame Chechen terrorists. [New York Times, 9/13/1999; BBC, 9/13/1999] Another Moscow apartment building was bombed on September 9, killing nearly 100 (see September 9, 1999). Later in the month, explosives will be found in an apartment building in the nearby city of Ryazan. The Russian government will initially declare it a foiled bombing until the suspects arrested turn out to be FSB agents. The government will then claim it was merely a training exercise (see September 22-24, 1999). This will lead some to suspect that all three apartment bomb incidents this month were false flag attacks by the FSB (see March 6, 2002, December 30, 2003 and January 2004).
Ryazan bomb detonator. [Source: Cryptome.org]On the evening of September 22, 1999, several residents of an apartment block in Ryazan, a city about a hundred miles south of Moscow, observe three strangers at the entrance of their building. The two young men and a woman are carrying large sacks into the basement. The residents notice that the car’s plate has been partially covered with paper, although they can still see a Moscow license plate number underneath. They decide to call the local police. After several bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow earlier in the month (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999), their vigilance is understandable. When the police arrive, around 9:00 p.m., they uncover what appears to be huge bomb: three sacks of sugar filled with a granular powder, connected to a detonator and a timing device set for 5:30 a.m. The bomb squad uses a gas testing device to confirm that it is explosive material: it appears to be hexagen, the military explosive that is believed to have been used to blow up two Moscow blocks. The residents are evacuated. Then the bomb carted away and turned over to the FSB. (In an apparent oversight, the FSB fails to collect the detonator, which is photographed by the local police.) The following morning, September 23, the government announces that a terrorist attack has been averted. They praise the vigilance of the local people and the Ryazan police. Police comb the city and find the suspects’ car. A telephone operator for long-distance calls reports that she overheard a suspicious conversation: the caller said there were too many police to leave town undetected and was told, “Split up and each of you make your own way out.” To the police’s astonishment, the number called belongs to the FSB. Later this day, the massive manhunt succeeds: the suspects are arrested. But the police are again stunned when the suspects present FSB credentials. On Moscow’s orders, they are quietly released. On September 24, the government reverses itself and now says the bomb was a dummy and the whole operation an exercise to test local vigilance. The official announcement is met with disbelief and anger. Ryazan residents, thousands of whom have had to spend the previous night outdoors, are outraged; local authorities protest that they were not informed. However, the suspicion of a government provocation is not widely expressed and press coverage fades after a few days. It is only several months later that an investigation by the independent weekly Novaya Gazeta re-ignites the controversy (see February 20, 2000 and Fall 1999). The government’s explanations will fail to convince skeptics (see March 23, 2000). The Ryazan incident later becomes the main reason for suspecting the government of having orchestrated previous bombings. The controversy is then widely reported in the international press. [BBC, 9/24/1999; Moscow Times, 9/24/1999; CNN, 9/24/1999; Baltimore Sun, 1/14/2000; Los Angeles Times, 1/15/2000; Moscow Times, 1/18/2000; Independent, 1/27/2000; Observer, 3/12/2000; Newsweek, 4/3/2000; Insight, 4/17/2000; National Review Online, 4/30/2002; Le Monde (Paris), 11/17/2002; Satter, 2003; Moscow Times, 9/24/2004]
Alexander Zdanovich. [Source: Terror99.ru]A team of FSB officials, led by Alexander Zdanovich, agrees to a televised meeting with angry and suspicious residents of Ryazan, hoping to put down rumors of a government provocation and shore up the credibility of the official account. In September 1999 a bomb was found in the basement of a building in Ryazan and the people arrested for planting the bomb were discovered to be FSB agents. The government then claimed the incident was merely a training exercise, but residents suspect the FSB wanted to bomb the building to create a fake terrorist incident (see September 22-24, 1999). Zdavonich apologizes for the inconvenience suffered by Ryazan inhabitants but then suggests the renewed interest in the event is a campaign ploy: “For months, there was no interest and there were no publications. The theme was activated on the eve of the presidential election with the most fantastic details in order to accuse the FSB of planning a real explosion with the death of people. This is actively used in the political struggle.” (The presidential election is only one week away.) A soldier named Alexei Pinyaev has claimed that he worked at a nearby base where hexogen was reportedly kept in sacks marked “sugar” (see Fall 1999). The commander of the base denies that there was any soldier named Pinyaev, but the Novaya Gazeta reporter who had found Pinyaev then shows pictures of him and plays a recording of his interview. The FSB will not let its three agents appear in public or allow journalists to interview them. The broadcast does not allow any discussion of a possible connection between the Ryazan incident and the apartment bombings in Moscow earlier that month (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). The FSB officials did not have good explanations for the fact that local authorities, including its own FSB office in Ryazan, were not informed of the supposed exercise, or for the lack of medical resources for the thousands of people forced to spend the night outdoors. According to David Satter, a long-time correspondent in Moscow for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times who believes the Ryazan incident was a failed provocation, the broadcast only serves to increase the public’s misgivings. [Satter, 2003, pp. 30, 261-264]
Boris Berezovsky. [Source: BBC]At a well-publicized press conference in London, where he now lives in self-imposed exile, Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky accuses President Putin of involvement in an alleged FSB plot behing the 1999 apartment bombings (see September 22-24, 1999, September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). After an overview of many well-known facts about the bombings and the controversial Ryazan security exercise, as well as a documentary called “The Assassination of Russia”, Berezovsky introduces the testimony of Nikita Chekulin. According to Chekulin, an explosive expert who says he was recruited by the FSB, large quantities of hexogen were purchased through his research institute, the Russian Conversion Explosives Center (Rosconversvzryvtsenter), and shipped under false labels in 1999-2000 out of military bases to cover organizations linked to the FSB. Chekulin says the FSB suppressed a governmental investigation into the scheme. “I am sure the bombings were organized by the FSB,” Berezovsky declares. “The FSB thought that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin would not be able to come to power through lawful democratic means.” [BBC, 3/6/2002; Guardian, 3/6/2002; Washington Post, 3/6/2002; Kommersant (Moscow), 3/6/2002; Monitor (Jamestown Foundation), 3/6/2002; SBS, 5/21/2003]
Ibn Khattab, a Chechen rebel leader with links to al-Qaeda, is assassinated by the Russian government. Other Chechen rebel leaders say that Khattab is killed by a poisoned letter given to him by Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB. The Russians do not present another version of his death. Khattab is unique amongst Chechen leaders because he was actually a Jordanian from a Saudi tribe who moved to Chechnya in 1995 shortly after fighting began there and became one of the top leaders of the Chechen rebellion. He was the main link between the Chechens and Islamist militants like bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002). [BBC, 4/26/2002; Independent, 5/1/2002; MSNBC, 6/22/2005]
A poll shows that suspicions of secret services involvement in the 1999 apartment bombings (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999) are widespread in Russia. Following Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky’s allegations made in in recent weeks (see March 6, 2002), six percent of Russians questioned in the poll say they believe the Russian FSB was behind the apartment bombings and another 37 percent believe it is a possibility. Most respondents say they would like Russian television to show a Berezovsky-sponsored documentary on the subject. [Agence France-Presse, 4/17/2002]
A truckload of about four thousand copies of the book “The FSB Blows Up Moscow” is seized by the FSB in order to protect “state secrets”. The book, by authors Alexander Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky, claims the FSB orchestrated the 1999 apartment bombings (see September 22-24, 1999, September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). The bookseller calls it a “shock attack on freedom of the press in Russia” and suggests that “the fact that they opened the case under this part of the Criminal Code [on state secrets] is an indirect admission that they participated in the explosions.” [Agence France-Presse, 12/30/2003; Moscow Times, 1/30/2004]
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