Russian President Boris Yeltsin has ordered the creation of an operational antiterrorism staff in the wake of a bombing early this morning in Moscow. The blast, which took place at 5:00 AM local time, completely destroyed an eight-story apartment building on Kashirsky highway in the southern part of the capital, in which 123 to 150 people were living. As of 11:00 AM, Moscow time, NTV television’s web news service reported that rescue workers had already discovered some forty bodies, but that the figure is certain to rise (www.ntv.ru, September 13). A construction expert told NTV television that the blast appeared to have been the equivalent of 130-250 kilograms of TNT (Russian agencies, September 13).
Yeltsin’s antiterrorism staff is to be headed by Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo. Yeltsin also announced that measures to increase security in Moscow and other large cities would be taken immediately, that airports, railway stations and markets would be put under “special control” and that special measures would be taken to protect power stations, oil storage facilities and pipelines, and strategic installations. First Deputy Vice Premier Nikolai Aksenenko has been put in charge of all activities connected to the investigation of the Kashirsky blast. Yeltsin is expected to give a televised address to the nation concerning the bombing (Russian agencies, September 13).
Police presence on Moscow’s streets has been significantly increased, and Anatoly Tyzhlov, governor of the Moscow Region, has ordered the police to detain anyone without a residence permit for Moscow or the Moscow Region (Russian agencies, September 13).
Earlier today, several hours after the blast, Aleksandr Zdanovich, head of the press center of the Federal Security Service (FSB), directly linked today’s bombing to the explosion last week which destroyed another Moscow apartment building. More than ninety people were killed in that blast. Zdanovich said that a “terrorist war” is being carried out against Russia. Police officials called on citizens to report anything they might know about a certain Mukhit Nazirovich Laipanov, whom Russian law enforcement suspect of leading the group responsible for the Moscow bombings. Laipanov reportedly makes a living renting storage space in apartment buildings, and the authorities believe that the explosives were placed in such premises in both incidents.
One paper reported today what it said was “operational data” that Chechen rebel field commanders Shamil Basaev and Khattab had dispatched to Buinaksk, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Rostov a group of “ethnic Slavs,” largely made up of former military servicemen, to carry out terrorist acts (Novaya gazeta, September 13). The account was published before today’s blast.
Other Russian media, meanwhile, reported that two people were injured in a bomb explosion yesterday in the city of Vologdonsk, in the southern region of Rostov Oblast, while bombs were also detonated in a town in Chelyabinsk Oblast and another in Primorsky Krai, in Russia’s Far East. Explosive devices were discovered over the weekend in apartment buildings in the cities of Bratsk, Gus-Khrustalny and Tver (Russian agencies, September 13).
Earlier this month, a blast at the Manezh shopping mall in downtown Moscow killed one and injured dozens, while an explosion at an apartment building in Buinaksk, Dagestan, which housed Russian military personnel killed more than sixty (see the Monitor, September 7, 10).
…AIR THICK WITH CONSPIRACY THEORIES.