Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 7 Issue: 28

Writing in Novaya gazeta on July 13, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan put forward a series of “questions without answers” about Basaev’s reported death. They asked, first of all, why there has been no official version of Basaev’s death. “Patrushev told the president that Basaev died as the result of special operation,” they wrote. “The details, he omitted. Then the following versions made the rounds of the newspapers, citing sources in the FSB: an FSB agent put an explosive device on the truck; Basaev was killed by a rocket aimed at [his] mobile telephone; Basaev died as a result of an accident—the truck hit a pot-hole; Basaev was captured earlier, interrogated, killed, [and his] body was thrown into the truck, which was then set on fire from a Shmel [flamethrower]. In all of these cases, a quick and graphic identification of the body is ruled out.”

Soldatov and Borogan then asked why the Russian special services did not show Basaev’s body, as they did in the cases of Aslan Maskhadov and Abdul-Khalim Sadulaev, whose dead bodies were graphically shown on television and in photographs. They also asked how Basaev had been positively identified. “‘Sources in the special services,’ through various newspapers, are pushing the version that [Basaev’s] body was torn up by the explosion, but that Basaev was identified by his beard. If the head is so recognizable, they wouldn’t hesitate to show it on RTR [state television]; if not, then how can a person be identified by his beard in the absence of a face? We remind you that we’re talking about a body found at the epicenter of an explosion that made havoc of a heavy KamAz [truck].”

In addition, the Novaya gazeta writers asked why the separatist website confirmed Basaev’s death the same day it happened, given that the Chechen rebels in the past have not confirmed the deaths of their leaders or commanders before their bodies were shown on television. They also asked why Basaev needed to get weapons from abroad, given that in the past, he had made do with weapons acquired domestically, and what he was doing in the town of Ekazhevo, where, according to Soldatov and Borogan, a large number of local Ingush police officers live. “How do you explain why such an experienced underground operator as Basaev disregarded the elementary rules of conspiracy?”

Finally, the two journalists asked who had carried out the operation that ostensibly killed Basaev. “The special services of Ingushetia did not take part in the operation, nor, according to our information, did the sub-units of the FSB’s Special Operations Center. In the area where the operation was carried out, however, even if it involved an agent with a mine, a group of spetsnaz should in any case have been moved in. That was not done. So who is going to get the medals?”