Another crime-corruption scandal heated up Tuesday, this time involving accusations that senior officials in the Federal Security Service (FSB) have been involved in a host of crimes, including a plot to kill Boris Berezovsky, the tycoon and executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States. A group of FSB officers–some wearing sunglasses and one even sporting a ski mask–held a press conference Tuesday (November 17) in Moscow, during which they accused Yevgeny Khokholkov, former chief of the FSB’s anti-organized crime department, and his deputy Aleksandr Kamyshnikov, of ordering them late last year to murder Berezovsky. The FSB’s anti-organized crime department has since been disbanded. Khokholkov is now a senior official with the State Tax Service, while Kamyshnikov is with the FSB’s antiterrorist team. An investigation into the alleged assassination plot was launched by the Main Military Prosecutor’s Office earlier this year after Aleksandr Litvinenko, who worked in the FSB’s anti-organized crime section, informed Berezovsky and members of President Boris Yeltsin’s administration about it. Back in 1994, Litvinenko, who was one of the participants in Tuesday’s press conference, assisted Berezovsky in investigating who placed a bomb in the financier’s car in an assassination attempt in which Berezovsky’s driver was decapitated.
Litvinenko and his fellow FSB officers claimed yesterday both that ex-FSB chief Nikolai Kovalev tried to have the investigation squelched, and that they have been threatened by other FSB officials. They also claimed that they had been ordered to kidnap the brother of Umar Dzhabrailev, a well-known Moscow businessman who heads the Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel joint venture. Litvinenko said his motivation in speaking out was draw the attention of Vladimir Putin, the FSB’s current head, on the need to clean the organization of officers who are using the agency not for “constitutional goals,” but “for their private and mercantile goals, for the settling of scores with undesirable people” (Russian agencies, November 17; Moscow Times, November 18).
The charges laid out in the November 17 press conference repeated and added to accusations Berezovsky himself made in an open letter to Vladimir Putin, the current FSB chief. In the letter, which was published November 13 in “Kommersant daily,” Berezovsky charged that FSB officials have been involved in “the commission of terrorist acts, murders, kidnappings and the extortion of large sums of money.” He also suggested the alleged plot to kill him had a political component, claiming that antidemocratic forces in the FSB leadership are united with leftist parties and movements and remnants of the Soviet-era nomenklatura in seeking to “again enforce the old system of distribution and control over the people and over mass media and punishment of undesirables” (Kommersant daily, November 13). Berezovsky, who recently called for a ban on the Communist Party after it failed to condemn anti-Semitic comments by one of its members, said in his letter to Putin that he had sent his accusations to the Prosecutor General’s Office, but that a possible investigation may have been squashed by one official in that office who is connected with “the most reactionary” elements of the Communist Party. These include Viktor Ilyukhin, head of the State Duma’s security committee, and Albert Makashov, the communist deputy who made the now-infamous anti-Semitic remarks. Litvinenko claimed yesterday that after he refused to carry out the order to kill Berezovsky, he was threatened by a fellow FSB officer for having prevented the murder of “a Jew who has robbed half the country.”
FSB CHIEF REACTS ANGRILY TO ACCUSATIONS, SOME NEWSPAPERS REACT SKEPTICALLY.