Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 172

Some politicians and observers have put forward conspiratorial explanations for the war in Dagestan and the bombing campaign in Moscow and elsewhere in Russia. And by no means all of those promoting these theories are anti-Yeltsin extremists in the mold of Viktor Ilyukhin, the radical communist who heads the State Duma’s security committee.

Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, for instance, in an interview broadcast yesterday, said that those behind these events were seeking to stir up ethnic hatred and shared a “strategic goal” of making Russia an enemy of Islam. Asked to elaborate, Yavlinsky said that the forces whose “interests coincide in this direction” include “Russian fascists, nationalists, terrorists and, one can say, Muscovite political marauders.” Asked to whom the latter referred, Yavlinsky answered: “The individuals who actually carry out the negotiations with the bandits about money” (NTV, September 19).

Yavlinsky was apparently referring to a report last week in Moskovsky komsomolets concerning telephone conversations which allegedly took place this past June between Chechen politicians Kazbek Makhashev and Molvady Udugov–who is close to rebel field commander Shamil Basaev–and a person with a voice “resembling” Boris Berezovsky’s. The paper published what it said were transcripts of these tapes, which included what appeared to be conversations about transfers of money (see the Monitor, September 14).

On September 16 Berezovsky categorically denied the veracity of the report. The tycoon and Kremlin insider admitted during a press conference that he had frequently talked to Chechen leaders, including rebel field commander Shamil Basaev, but said that the substance of those conversations had nothing to do with shipping money to Chechnya. Berezovsky also said that he had never discussed either the war in Dagestan or the terrorist bombings in Moscow with the Chechens.

While Berezovsky said that he planned to sue the newspaper for what it had reported, Pavel Gusev, the paper’s chief editor, said on September 16 that he had handed over the tape containing the alleged conversations to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Gusev insisted that the tapes were genuine. He said further that the paper had confirmed that the FSB officer who taped the conversation was murdered “on the orders of those who had been recorded.” Justice Minister Yuri Chaika, meanwhile, said last week that he did not rule out the possibility that the tape was a “provocation or a forgery.” (Russian agencies, September 17).

Last night, NTV television played what it said were sections of the tape (NTV, September 19). During his press conference last week, Berezovsky attacked not only Moskovsky komsomolets but also Media Most, the conglomerate founded by rival oligarch Vladimir Gusinsky and the owner of NTV.

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