Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 157

The biweekly newspaper Novaya Gazeta has devoted almost all of the space in its latest issue to excerpts from a book co-written by Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) lieutenant colonel who left Russia last year and received political asylum in the United Kingdom this year. The as-yet-unpublished book, entitled “The FSB Blows Up Russia” and co-written by Yury Felshtinsky, an emigre historian, contains a number of potentially explosive allegations–including that Russia’s security services have used criminals and former special forces commandos to carry out assassinations and commit terrorist acts.

Litvinenko and his co-author claim that in November 1994, Russian state security helped set the stage for the first Chechen war by, among other things, getting one of its agents, Maksim Lazovsky, to organize various terrorist attacks to serve as the pretext for Moscow’s military intervention in the breakaway republic. Lazovsky, who headed an oil firm called Lanakom, was known in the criminal world by the aliases “Max” and “Khromoi.” The attacks, the co-authors say, include the bombing of a railroad bridge across the Yauza River in Moscow. Intervention came a month later. The authors also claim that Aleksandr Korzhakov, then head of the Presidential Security Service, Mikhail Barsukov, then head of the Federal Guards Service, and Oleg Soskovyets, then first deputy prime minister, had been forcing multimillion-dollar bribes out of Chechen leader Djohar Dudaev, and that they decided to go to war when Dudaev refused to continue paying them. State security, Litvinenko and Felshtinsky say, was behind the bombings of a Moscow metro car in June 1996 and two separate bombings of Moscow trolleybuses the following month, all aimed at disrupting the peace negotiations then underway between the Kremlin and the Chechen rebels. The authors, however, admit that they do not know specifically who was involved in those blasts.

They further allege that the FSB created a secret department tasked with “neutralizing” threats to the state. This department made use of private security firms, including one founded by a KGB agent called Stels, which ended up being used in a program developed by Korzhakov’s then deputy, Georgy Rogozin. That program, they say, called for using “criminal structures, extremist organizations, individual criminals and retrained former military special forces servicemen from the GRU [military intelligence], the Defense Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the FSB for breaking up criminal groups, physically liquidating criminal ‘avtoritety’ and leaders of organized crime groups.” In carrying out this program, the Stels firm allegedly used Moscow’s powerful Ismailov criminal group, and gradually became the Ismailov group’s “krysha” (protection). Stels and other such private security firms, they maintain, were involved in a number of high-profile contract killings of “criminal leaders, businessmen and bankers.” A group called the “Uzbek Four”–four ethnic Russian former special forces commandos from Uzbekistan and connected to Maksim Lasovsky’s group–were suspected of involvement in the 1995 murder of Felix Lvov, the Russian representative of the U.S. metals firm AIOC, which was involved in a battle to control the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory. The authors also write that Uzbek Four may have been involved in the 1995 murder of ORT television director Vladislav Listyev and the 1997 murder of St. Petersburg Vice Governor Mikhail Manevich.