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Feb. 19, 2004
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Boris Berezovsky organized "Assassination of Russia"
// Premiere of a Long Promised Film in London
Yesterday in London, almost below the windows of the residence of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Boris Berezovsky gave a long-awaited press conference: "Putins Russia. State Terrorism?" Journalists saw a fragment of a documentary film "Assassination of Russia". Those expecting Boris Berezovsky to show the document confirming the FSBs connection to the bombing of apartment houses in Moscow signed by Vladimir Putin were disappointed. However, in his opinion, the information given in the film is enough to consider Putin an illegitimate president. Kommersant correspondents NATALIA GEVORKYAN and VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA attended the press conference.
The place chosen for the press conference with such a provocative name was the London Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies, situated in the very heart of the Whitehall governmental area, practically in front of the British Prime Ministers residence on Downing Street (although that day Tony Blair was in Australia at a summit of heads of the governments of the British Commonwealth). The oval hall where the press conference took place was full an hour before it began. When the organizer of the event, Boris Berezovsky, appeared in the presidium, the hall was overcrowded. There were about 20 TV cameras (only two Russian channels among them NTV and the already cut off TV-6). All the periphery of the hall was decorated with stands displaying photos of the ruins of apartment houses in Moscow and Volgodonsk blown up in September 1999, a photo of the blasting assembly from the basement of a Ryazan apartment house and a chronology of events.

Just before the conference began, the hall was joined by Radio Svoboda correspondent Andrei Babitsky, ex-president of NTV Igor Malashenko, writer and historian Yury Felshtinsky and former FSB lieutenant colonel Aleksander Litvinenko, who had got political asylum in Great Britain a year before (Felshtinsky and Litvinenko are the co-authors of the book "The FSB Blows Up Russia" that has recently been published in the USA). The main conferees came in with Boris Berezovsky: RF State Duma deputies Sergei Yushenkov and Yuly Rybakov, former acting director of the Rosconversvzryvtsenter (Explosives) Research Institute Nikita Chekulin, a former resident of the apartment house on Guryanova street, whose mother was killed in September 1999, independent British explosives expert Alan Hatchen and the authors of the film French documentalists from Transparences Productions company Jean-Charles Deniau and Charles Gazelle. The press conference was conducted by Richard Tracey, a Briton introduced as the "independent chairman". The only representative of official Russia, Shamil Yunusov, second secretary of the Russian Embassy in London, was present on his own private initiative.

The opening address of Boris Berezovsky, who was introduced as co-chairman of the Liberal Russia movement, was quite short: he announced that a year-long independent investigation of the apartment house bombings in September 1999 and the abortive bombing of an apartment house in Ryazan convinced him that the FSB was behind the crimes. "This is not my opinion, it is my conclusion", stressed Mr. Berezovsky.

At that moment, the room turned dark and the screen behind the presidium of the press conference lit up, displaying the ruins of the apartment house on Guryanova Street in Moscow. Mr Berezovsky left the presidium and sat in the first row of the stalls for precisely ten minutes while the fragment of the 52-minute film was being shown.

The audiences reaction was silence three-quarters of those present almost surely knew nothing of the abortive bombing attempt in Ryazan (following the films version) or of the successful maneuvers of the FSB (according to the official version).

A Russian audience would hardly find the film sensational. Its one indisputable merit is that for the first time, documentalists gathered all the facts and details of "the Ryazan case", lined them up in chronological order and adduced conflicting evidence of top officials concerning the case, including that of prime minister of the time Vladimir Putin. One episode produces a particularly strong impression. A Ryazan telephone operator retells the conversation about the movements of two people that seemed suspicious to her right after the might-have been blast. It is clear from the context that the number that popped up on the operators board started with 224, the initial numbers of Lubyanka and Kremlin telephones.

The basic idea of the film is simple: if what happened in Ryazan was an attempted apartment house bombing that the FSB failed to accomplish, this suggests that Russian special services were involved in the other house bombings, including the ones in Moscow. And if it was the FSB that blew up the houses, "Putins coming to power is seen in a different light."

The film often refers to the NTV program "Independent Investigation" with the participation of residents of the unexploded Ryazan house. It was actually this television investigation three days before the 2000 presidential election that first interested the French. The film may be quite a success in the West, but is unlikely to be shown in Russia, which, as Boris Berezovsky thinks, is indirect evidence of the special services and particularly Putins connection to this tragic story.

However, the most shocking thing was not on the screen but in the left corner of the stage, where former acting director of the Rosconversvzryvtsenter (Explosives) Research Institute Nikita Chekulin sat. He revealed that in 2000 he was recruited by the FSB and had "documentary proof of a secret plan to steal explosives," including hexogen from military depots, whose participants were top officials of the Russian Government and the FSB. What is more, it was FSB director Nikolai Patrushev who personally prohibited an investigation of this case. Mr. Chekulin had made a written statement that was officially attested by London notary D. N. L. Fawcett. Liberal deputy Rybakov asked the journalists to pay particular attention to Mr. Chekulins evidence: "Where is that hexogen now, and shouldnt we expect new explosions?"

Tatyana Morozova in decent English (since 1997 she has lived in the USA) read out something like a statement that she was going to bring an action against the FSB and she wanted to know who had been behind the murder of her mother and hundreds of other people. Her speech gave the impression of a prepared performance and only the questions pronounced without notes at the end "Why are all the cases classified? Why is everything being concealed?" sounded sincere.

Sergei Yushenkov, disillusioned about the Russian parliament, which he called "cowardly and helpless," is now counting on the European Parliament, which he hopes will initiate special hearings on the apartment house bombings. To the direct question of a foreign journalist as to whether Putins name would appear in the international investigation, Boris Berezovsky replied: "Absolutely".

Meanwhile, the name of Boris Berezovsky keeps appearing in an increasing number of criminal cases. But this does not seem to bother him. Regarding yesterdays charge of connection to the outbreak of war in Dagestan in 1999 brought by the General Prosecutor he said: "I would do my best to support the FSBs investigation of the of war in Dagestan. An investigation of the role of the special services, which actually initiated the conflict. I have my own opinion about that".


NATALIA GEVORKYAN, VLADIMIR KARA-MURZA, London

All the Article in Russian as of Mar. 06, 2002

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