Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 167

While all signs suggested that today’s Moscow blast was carried out in revenge for Russian military actions in the campaign against Islamist guerrillas in Dagestan, it is interesting to note that a report published today–prior to the latest blast–entertained the theory that the Islamist attack on Dagestan may have been initially “planned by the Kremlin” for the purpose of “strengthening of the regime and providing for the continuity of power,” or to achieve “a radical stabilization, in order, we can suppose, to introduce a state of emergency and cancel elections.” It was suggested that the plan may have gotten out of hand, and that the domestic Islamists were now exclusively following the orders of Middle Eastern terrorists. The question was also raised as to whether last week’s apartment building bombing and the explosion at Manezh shopping mall may have been part of the initial Kremlin plan. Ultra-nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky was quoted as predicting that terrorist acts in the capital “will become a regular phenomenon” (Profil, September 13).

Whatever the merits of this conspiracy theory, it is also worth noting that several leading politicians, in comments televised last night, suggested that the Kremlin might be moving toward imposing a state of emergency. Vladimir Ryzhkov, leader of the Russia is Our Home faction in the State Duma, said that he had “a certain fear” that Yeltsin would take measures to prolong his presidency, but predicted that, if attempted, such measures would end in an “ignominious defeat.” Aleksei Podberyozkin, head of the opposition Spiritual Heritage Movement, said “a number of groups” could be expected to back an “anti-constitutional decision.” St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev said that a state of emergency might be imposed as a way of canceling elections, but added that this would be “impermissible.” Vitaly Mukha, governor of Novosibirsk Region, predicted that Yeltsin would not win support for such a move from the Federation Council, which, according to the constitution, must ratify a state of emergency. For his part, Samara Governor Konstantin Titov said that a state of emergency already exists de facto, and that there would be “no problems” in making it de jure. He added, however, that he believed that the president and the government could handle the situation without a state of emergency (NTV, September 12). Sergei Sobyanin, head of the Federation Council’s constitutional law committee, said on September 9 that all the preconditions for imposing a state of emergency now exist (see the Monitor, September 10).

In a sign of the growing crisis mood, one media item asked various politicians and other observers whether Yeltsin awaited the fate of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu (Profil, September 13).

Following today’s tragedy, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was rushed back to Moscow from the Asia-Pacific conference being held in New Zealand, called the bombing a “heinous crime” and the people who carried it out “rabid animals.” He said, however, that while he was for a “very harsh” response to the terrorists, he was on principle opposed to the imposition of a state of emergency. His predecessor, Sergei Stepashin, echoed his sentiments (Russian agencies, September 13).