Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 21

On June 6 listeners of Radio Liberty heard a dramatic broadcast of a recording made by a now-dead member of the Russian Duma who may have been assassinated by his political enemies. The taped lecture by the late deputy Sergei Yushenkov, delivered a year ago at the Kennan Institute in Washington, failed to attract much attention at the time. But in light of subsequent events it takes on a haunting importance. Yushenkov directly accused Russia’s security agencies of provoking the war on Chechnya.

Discussing the mysterious 1999 episode in which the FSB planted a “dummy” bomb in a Ryazan apartment house (see Chechnya Weekly, June 5), Yushenkov said that “under the guise of a training exercise the FSB can do whatever it may please–from preparing the explosion of buildings with unsuspecting residents, to organizing a coup d’etat and even provoking a war. In connection with this, I shall allow myself to offer a version of what happened: On September 23 [1999], a coup d’etat was carried out in Russia. Here is how: On September 23 a group of twenty-four provincial governors, led by Savchenko of the Belgorod Oblast, appealed to the president of the Russian Federation to transfer his powers to Prime Minister Putin. On that very day the president issued a secret decree, on the basis of which began the military operations in Chechnya–the second war.”

Yushenkov cited the hitherto neglected record of a meeting of the Council of the Russian Duma in which speaker Gennady Seleznev told colleagues about a bomb blast in a Volgodonsk apartment building. The meeting took place on September 13, 1999–three days before the actual Volgodonsk explosion that helped create the atmosphere leading to the second Chechen war. Seleznev later tried to explain the discrepancy by claiming that he was referring not to the fatal apartment blast but to a minor episode on September 12, in which a grenade wounded seven people.