Two members of Liberal Russia, the political movement funded and co-chaired by the rebel tycoon Boris Berezovsky, tried yesterday (March 10) to bring into Russia copies of “Attack on Russia,” the documentary film made by a French production company under Berezovsky’s auspices alleging that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was behind the September 1999 bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk. While one of the Liberal Russia officials was able to bring in copies of the film unimpeded, customs officials prevented the other from doing so.
Sergei Yushenkov, a Liberal Russia leader and State Duma deputy who attended Berezovsky’s March 5 press conference in London, returned to Moscow yesterday with 1,000 videocassette copies of the film. During that press conference, Berezovsky had shown a fragment of the documentary and presented other evidence allegedly proving FSB complicity in the 1999 bombings. Yushenkov and his freight passed through customs easily. He then distributed copies to the journalists waiting for him at Moscow’s Sheremetevo Airport and said he hoped to find a television channel willing to air the film. But his fellow Liberal Russia member and Duma deputy, Yuly Rybakov, ran into problems when he tried the same thing at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. Rybakov accused the customs officials there of seizing the 100 copies he had brought “without legal grounds.” Those officers told him, he said, that they were seizing the tapes temporarily because they “might be for commercial use.” Rybakov noted, however, that the receipt he was given indicated, among other things, that “[i]tems confiscated on grounds of a political nature” would not be returned. He also said that as he passed through customs, the uniformed customs officers consulted constantly with a group of people in plainclothes who stood in the background. Rybakov did not say who he thought these people were, but clearly implied that they belonged to the special services or other law enforcement agencies.
Indeed, Yushenkov later formally protested the seizure of the tapes in St. Petersburg in a statement made on behalf of Liberal Russia and given to Grani.ru, a website linked to Berezovsky. “There is no doubt that the special services are beginning a struggle with dissent and political opposition,” the statement read. “The Liberal Russia movement demands that the videocassettes be returned and calls the attention of the Prosecutor General’s Office to the illegal actions of St. Petersburg customs” (Grani.ru, March 10; Moscow Times, March 11). The Izvestia.ru website, however, quoted an anonymous State Customs Committee official as saying that the seizure of Rybakov’s cassettes was either “a monstrous mistake” by the local customs officers or an action organized by Berezovsky himself as an advertisement for his film (Izvestia.ru, March 10).
Meanwhile, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said today that he was convinced Berezovsky’s documentary film was “a provocation by both the American special services and Berezovsky.” Zyuganov was quoted as saying that it was “obvious that the more Berezovsky tries to make himself look uninvolved, the more it becomes obvious that he was involved in… the explosions” (Gazeta.ru, March 11; see the Monitor, March 6).
DEMOCRATS CALL RUSSIA A “MANAGED DEMOCRACY”.