Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 3 Issue: 23

In an article entitled “Dekkushev against Gochiyaev,” journalist Ol’ga Pashkova wrote in the July 25 issue of the website Politcom.ru: “Over the past week, two important events occurred that directly touched upon the Moscow bombings of the fall of 1999. In accord with Russian-Georgian agreements, on the territory of Georgia, one of the key individuals accused in this [1999] case, Adam Dekkushev, was taken into custody…. And former FSB lieutenant colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, who had taken refuge from the Russian authorities in England and had joined the entourage of [oligarch] Boris Berezovsky, announced that he had entered into contact with the man whom the FSB consider to be the chief organizer of the [Moscow] explosions–Achimez Gochiyaev.”

“According to the information of the investigative administration of the FSB of Russia,” Pashkova continued her account, “Dekkushev became part of a group of individuals who participated in preparing and carrying out the explosions both in Moscow and in Volgodonsk in [September] 1999.” The FSB maintained, further, that in August of 1999 Dekkushev, “together with Yusuf Krymshamkhalov and Timur Batchaev,” brought the explosives disguised as sugar into Moscow. “In Moscow the load was received by the leader of the group, Achimez Gochiyaev, and his close accomplice, Denis Saitakov. Dekkushev is charged, further, with having organized the explosion in Volgodonsk.” (It should be noted that none of the individuals mentioned by Pashkova are ethnic Chechens.) On July 19, the pro-Putin website Strana.ru wrote: “Dekkushev at his first interrogation confirmed that the explosions of the apartment buildings in Moscow and Volgodonsk were conducted at the instruction of the leaders of the terrorists in Chechnya-the Arabs Khattab and Abu Umar.”

The dramatic arrest of Dekkushev in western Georgia and the reports by the FSB of what he was allegedly telling his interrogators prompted a well-funded group of political opponents of the Russian secret services to get their own side of the story out fast. On July 25, at the Balchug-Kempinski Hotel in central Moscow, a special session of the Public Commission to Investigate the 1999 Explosions in Moscow and Volgodonsk and the Ryazan’ Exercises, chaired by State Duma deputy Sergei Kovalev, a former Russian human rights commissioner, was held in the presence of numerous journalists. The highlight of this special session of the commission was a “Television-Bridge” presentation from London by former FSB Lieutenant Colonel Litvinenko and historian Yury Fel’shtinsky. The two most significant points in their presentation was the producing of a statement entitled “The Testimony of Achimez Gochiyaev” and the assertion by Fel’shtinsky that “Batchaev and Krymshamkhalov were not the organizers of the terrorist acts [of September 1999] but only participants in a conspiracy or, possibly, only witnesses. Batchaev and Krymshamkhalov name as the supervisor of the [bombing] operation the late deputy director of the FSB, German Ugryumov” (SMI.ru, July 25). Fel’shtinsky claimed to be in possession of taped statements by these two men, which were to be publicly released in the event that they, like Dekkushev, found themselves under arrest by the FSB. The two men, Fel’shtinsky emphasized, “maintain that neither Khattab nor Basaev knew anything about the explosions in Moscow. But the director of the FSB, Patrushev, did know about them.” (Kommersant, July 26). On July 25, the website Grani.ru reported that: “The head of the FSB, Nikolai Patrushev, did not come to the session of the commission though he had been sent a personal invitation. A nameplate with the name ‘Nikolai Patrushev’ was placed at a table.”

In his televised statement to the Kovalev commission, Litvinenko related that he and Fel’shtinsky had come into possession of Gochiyaev’s testimony through intermediaries at meetings in Europe. Gochiyaev at their request had also provided rather extensive biographical material about himself as well as some photographs. In his statement, dated April 24, 2002, Gochiyaev affirmed that he had been born in 1970 in the city of Karachaevsk, which is now located in the autonomous republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia. At the age of sixteen, he moved from Karachaevsk to Moscow. In 1996, he married and obtained official registration in the Russian capital. He then became the head of a business firm named “Kapstroi 2000.” The charges of the FSB that “I am the organizer of the Moscow explosions and that I am connected with Basaev and Khattab” were, Gochiyaev declared, a lie. In June of 1999, he said, he had been living and working in Moscow. “There came to me at the firm a man whom I had known well from our school days together [in Karachaevo-Cherkessia]. He proposed to me that we jointly engage in a certain task; he said that he had good chances of acquiring various grocery products.” Gochiyaev then helped this man to rent four premises in Moscow. “On September 9 [1999], I was visiting friends when this man telephoned me on my cell phone and said that at the warehouse at Gur’yanov Street there was a large fire and that I needed to go there.” This call came early in the morning of September 9. Turning on the television, Gochiyaev continued, “I saw what had happened in reality and decided not to go there.” After the second Moscow explosion of September 13, Gochiyaev said, “I understood that I had been set up. I immediately telephoned the police, the ambulance and even the 911 emergency service and told them about the depots at Borisovskie Ponds and Kopotno, where, after that, they succeeded in preventing the explosions.” Realizing that his friend was almost certainly an FSB agent who had been setting him up for a fall, Gochiyaev went into permanent hiding. “From my brother, Boris Gochiyaev, who works in a district department of the police, I learned that they had an order not to take me alive…. They wanted, having liquidated me, to announce to the whole country and the entire world that a ‘superterrorist’ had been destroyed, one who had blown up the apartment houses in Moscow.” Gochiyaev said that the Russian authorities had also put intense pressure on his sister: “First they offered her money, then they tried to frighten her, then they threatened her, and they beat her.” Her husband, Taukan Frantsuzov, he noted, had been arrested and sentenced to thirteen-and-a-half years in prison, though he was in fact guilty of nothing (Grani.ru, July 25).

The FSB indignantly rejected all of Gochiyaev’s and Litvinenko’s charges. “The information disseminated by Litvinenko,” it declared, “lacks substance and cannot be taken seriously by people who are really conducting an investigation into the terrorist acts. [Litvinenko] is a man who has besmirched the calling of an officer of the special services” (Interfax, July 25).

On July 26, the website NTVru.com reported that Ekho Moskvy Radio had learned that Mikhail Trepashkin, a former officer in the FSB, who had received a charge from the Public Commission to examine the testimony of the basic suspect in the explosion, Achimez Gochiyaev, had on July 26 himself been summoned to the Chief Military Procuracy in Moscow for interrogation. “In such matters,” Litvinenko commented from London in an interview with Ekho Moskvy Radio, “minutes count. The FSB needs time to destroy the evidence and frighten the witnesses. Hence the summons to Trepashkin.”

Amidst all of the heated charges and countercharges being exchanged between the Berezovsky camp and the FSB and its allies, commission chairman Sergei Kovalev provided a note of calm and balance. In a lengthy interview with Tat’yana Pelipeiko of Ekho Moskvy Radio (the full text of the interview was posted on the website HRO.org) Kovalev stressed that his commission intended to conduct a thorough and even boring investigation into all the charges and to scrupulously weigh the evidence. “I think,” he said, “that the result of the work of the commission, which will justify its existence, will be a boring, detailed and extraordinarily well-argued report concerning various circumstances of the case, concerning various contradictions that have emerged, and concerning various interested parties, including the position of the authorities. Let us remark, incidentally, that the authorities should be our first fan and our first helper in such a form of investigation.” As far as the version set forth by Litvinenko and Fel’shtinsky in their book “The FSB Is Blowing Up Russia” was concerned, Kovalev said, “I don’t want to believe it, but I also don’t want to be prejudiced, and so I will also not exclude their version. I will exclude nothing: a Chechen lead, an FSB lead, or any intermediate variants, and such variants could exist.” The commission, Kovalev pledged, would subject the materials submitted by Litvinenko and Fel’shtinsky “to dispassionate and unbiased analysis.” In a comment made to Kommersant (July 26 issue), Ivan Rybkin, secretary of the Russian Security Council from 1996-1998, noted that the Kovalev commission was, in effect, taking the place of a Russian parliament “whose deputies had declined to create a parliamentary commission” for the purpose of investigating the 1999 bombings.

To conclude, one wishes the Kovalev Commission well in its effort to determine the truth concerning the horrific September 1999 bombings.