Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 30

Boris Berezovsky has once again said that at the end of February he will make public evidence that the September 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow, which killed hundreds of people, were carried out by Russia’s special services, not, as the Russian authorities have claimed, by Chechen terrorists. The opposition oligarch’s latest comments, made in separate interviews published yesterday in France’s Le Figaro newspaper and Switzerland’s Facts magazine, are his most radical yet since late last year, when he first threatened to reveal evidence of the alleged role of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in those incidents. Berezovsky concurred with Le Figaro’s characterization that his fight with President Vladimir Putin is “to the death.” He even repeated his old allegation that the FSB leadership ordered his murder in 1997, hinting that there could be an attempt on his life now and saying he had taken “precautionary measures to keep safe the information I want to make public.” And while the tycoon repeated his comment from earlier interviews that he has no proof that Putin–who in September 1999 was prime minister and had earlier been FSB director–was personally involved in the apartment building bombings, Berezovsky, for the first time, strongly implied that this was the case. He dismissed out of hand the idea that Nikolai Patrushev, who was FSB director at the time of the bombings (and remains so), then Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo or then President Boris Yeltsin could have ordered such terrorist attacks. Such a decision, Berezovsky said, could have been taken only by someone with sufficient “will,” adding that the recent decision to end the broadcasts of TV-6 (which Berezovsky majority owns) showed that Putin possesses “a strong will.” Asked if he had any other suspects in mind for the 1999 blasts, Berezovsky answered simply: “No” (Le Figaro, February 21 [from the Russian translation by]). In an interview with the New York Times earlier this month, Berezovsky said he had no proof that Putin was personally involved in the bombings but said he had “facts” showing that Patrushev, who is a long-time Putin associate, and other FSB officials were involved in the apartment building bombings (see the Monitor, February 7).

In his interview with Facts, the Swiss magazine, Berezovsky repeated the comment he made to the New York Times last month that his proof of an FSB role in the apartment building bombings “is at least as good as what the United States has against Osama bin Laden.” In addition, he specified for the first time the kind of evidence he claims to have, saying it includes both “documents and videotapes.” Asked what kind of reaction he expected his revelations to elicit, Berezovsky said that while he understood “the danger for Russia when the people find out… that bandits are among those who run the country,” he also feared the Russian people were “not ready for” and thus would “not accept” the truth. The tycoon said that if the international community accepts his proof as genuine, “the situation for the Russian government will become very unpleasant.” He added, however, that the West might not accept it, given that Russia has become “an important ally in the fight against terrorism” (Facts, February 21 [from the Russian translation by]).

The FSB, of course, has dismissed Berezovsky’s allegations out of hand. Last month Patrushev said that his agency has documentary evidence that the tycoon had financed Chechen rebel groups and would pass this information on to foreign governments, presumably to pave the way for the tycoon’s extradition. The Prosecutor General’s Office subsequently charged Berezovsky under a criminal statute that bans creating and leading “illegal armed formations.” Berezovsky admits having passed funds to Chechen rebel leaders in 1997, when he was serving as deputy secretary of the Security Council, but said this was part of official Russian government policy (see the Monitor, January 25, February 1).