Since the February 6 Moscow subway bombing, the Putin administration has dug in its heels against the very idea of negotiating with the Maskhadov government. Putin declared on the day of the attack that “it’s not the first time that we encounter a synchronization of crimes committed on the territory of Russia and calls for negotiations”—implicitly blaming all who favor negotiations as terrorist co-conspirators.
Among the skeptical reactions to Putin’s comments was that of Novaya gazeta commentator Boris Vishnevsky, who wrote on February 12 that the Russian Federation’s prosecutors have not even opened a formal criminal case against Maskhadov as they did against his emissary, Akhmed Zakaev. (He noted that the latter case “collapsed like a house of cards” when presented “to a court which it is not possible to instruct from the Kremlin,” i.e., the London court that considered Zakaev’s extradition case last year.) “This does not prevent Russia’s president from announcing in advance that Maskhadov is a criminal,” he wrote. “But if the FSB is so well-informed that it can reliably identify the instigators of a terrorist attack immediately after it has taken place, then it is hard to understand what could have kept them from preventing the Moscow explosion—and many others—from taking place to begin with.”
Meanwhile, some of the Russian authorities are now admitting that the number of deaths in the subway tragedy was greater than the figure of thirty-nine, to which they clung during the first few days after the February 6 explosion. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov has given an estimate of about fifty.
Are the authorities truly determined to learn everything they can about the attack? One detail is sadly reminiscent of the deliberate investigative omissions after the notorious 1999 apartment bombings. Train service in the tunnel where the explosion took place was restored on the same day, making a complete forensic analysis impossible.