Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 54

Computer hackers infiltrated the Russian biweekly opposition newspaper Novaya gazeta yesterday afternoon, preventing it from publishing today as scheduled. The incident occurred just an hour and a half before the paper was to be printed. Those responsible reportedly destroyed all the material for today’s issue, including photographs, illustrations and even the paper’s logo. According to Sergei Sokolov, Novaya gazeta’s deputy editor, today’s issue contained “sensational material on corruption at the highest echelons of power” along with an article detailing schemes for financing the campaigns of certain presidential candidates.” The latter article included information on both Boris Yeltsin’s 1996 re-election campaign and Acting President Vladimir Putin’s current campaign, Sokolov said. Novaya gazeta’s editorial board released a statement saying that it does not rule out that “the obsequious entourage of the country’s leaders is ready to display its loyalty using even this method.” Sokolov said the paper’s next issue, on March 20, will include the material intended for today’s edition (Russian agencies, March 15; Moscow Times, March 16).

Novaya gazeta has been highly critical of the war in Chechnya and regularly investigates allegations of high-level corruption. In its March 13 issue, for example, it featured the latest installment of an ongoing investigation into whether a so-called “training exercise” by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in the city of Ryazan last autumn–when residents of an apartment building stumbled on what the FSB subsequently said was a fake terrorist bomb–was in fact a real attempt to bomb the building (Novaya gazeta, March 13). Some observers have theorized that last autumn’s apartment building bombings in Moscow and other cities, which claimed some 300 lives and became the pretext for the “antiterrorist” operation in Chechnya, were in fact planned by Russia’s special services. The author of the Novaya gazeta series on the Ryazan incident, Pavel Voloshin, said yesterday that the paper will soon publish new evidence of FSB attempts to cover up the incident (Moscow Times, March 16). In January of this year, Novaya gazeta ran an article suggesting that some of Russia’s top “oligarchs,” including Boris Berezovsky and Anatoly Chubais, conspired to provoke last year’s incursion into Dagestan and the subsequent war in Chechnya, as a way of forwarding their chosen successors to Boris Yeltsin (see the Monitor, February 8).

Meanwhile, FSB sources today were quoted as saying that the bombings of two apartment buildings in Moscow last September, which killed 223 people, were the result of a carefully organized plot carried out by a group of terrorists, at least three of whom subsequently fled to Chechnya. The FSB sources said that one of the suspected terrorists, named Denis Saitakov, was later spotted in Chechnya leading a unit of rebel fighters (Russian agencies, March 16).