Boris Berezovsky and Russia’s law enforcement agencies continued their tit-for-tat battle yesterday. The press service of the Liberal Russia movement, which Berezovsky belongs to and finances, announced that on March 5 in London the tycoon will finally make public the evidence he claims to have that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was behind the September 1999 apartment building bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. These events, which killed hundreds of people, were one of the main pretexts for the decision to dispatch troops to Chechnya for a second time in less than five years. Berezovsky, who has been in self-imposed exile since publicly breaking with President Vladimir Putin in 2000, will put forward his evidence–a documentary film of the bombings–in a press conference. In a recent interview, Berezovsky indicated that he had both video footage and documentary evidence, but has not revealed his sources for the material. The Gazeta.ru website suggested yesterday that the documentary was probably made using material originally collected by NTV television, when it was still under the control of Vladimir Gusinsky, and by Berezovsky’s own TV-6 channel. Some of this material was shown on NTV last year, before the channel was taken over by the state-controlled natural gas monopoly Gazprom. TV-6 was taken off the air in January of this year. Meanwhile, Liberal Russia’s press service also announced that on March 5, the same day as Berezovsky’s press conference in London, it would hold protest demonstrations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Perm, Rostov-on-Don, Bryansk, Tambov and other Russian cities, demanding “the creation of a system of civil control over the activities of the special services. The movement also said it would try to set up a “public commission” to investigate the 1999 apartment building bombings (Gazeta.ru, February 28).
The Russia authorities yesterday reacted almost immediately to the announcement Berezovsky made via Liberal Russia. The Prosecutor General’s Office announced that it was extending, by three months, its investigation into charges that the tycoon financed Chechen rebels. Late last month, Federal Security Service Director Nikolai Patrushev said that his agency had documentary evidence that Berezovsky, who once served as deputy secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council, had financed “illegal armed formations and their leaders,” after which the Prosecutor General’s Office launched an investigation of Berezovsky and his long-time associate, Badri Patarkatsishvili, under Article 208 of Russia’s criminal code, which bans the creation and direction of “illegal armed formations” (see the Monitor, January 25, 30). Yesterday, Leonid Troshin, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that the probe into Berezovsky’s alleged funding of the Chechen rebels had been extended until May 28 “in connection with the fact that operational information from the FSB concerning Boris Berezovsky’s possible participation in financing illegal armed formation is undergoing investigative verification and being firmed up procedurally.” After completing “the necessary investigative actions,” Troshin said, a decision would be made on whether to charge Berezovsky formally (Interfax, February 28). Berezovsky has already been charged with large-scale fraud and other crimes in connection with the alleged embezzlement of funds from Aeroflot, Russia’s state airline.
Interestingly, Gazeta.ru said it had “information” that Berezovsky had been in negotiations with the Kremlin to reach some kind of “peace agreement” right up until the end of December 2001. Last month, Gazeta.ru said that the FSB’s allegations that Berezovsky financed the Chechen rebels were in answer to the tycoon having violated “certain rules of the game, according to which the former CIS executive secretary would not reveal secrets of Russia’s special services that he might be privy to, and the FSB would remain quiet about Berezovsky’s business operations in Chechnya” (see the Monitor, January 25). Since the start of this year, Berezovsky has repeated his charges of FSB involvement in the 1999 terrorist bombings in numerous interviews. He claims to have evidence that Nikolai Patrushev and other FSB officials were involved, and while he initially said he had no proof that Putin was “involved personally” in those bombings, he strongly hinted in a recent interview that this was the case, though he provided no evidence in this regard. In that same interview, with France’s Le Figaro, Berezovsky said that his battle with Putin was a fight “to the death” (see the Monitor, February 22).
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