Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 168

President Boris Yeltsin met yesterday morning after the apartment building bombing with various officials, including First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (see the Monitor, September 13). Instructing them to take the necessary measures to prevent further terrorist acts and issuing a decree creating an operational antiterrorism command headed by Rushailo, Yeltsin also addressed the nation on television, calling on the population to help law enforcement in the fight against the terrorists, who, he said, had “declared war on the Russian people.” Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, after cutting short his visit to New Zealand, asked State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev to convene a session of the parliament’s lower house today to discuss the terrorist bombing.

While the possibility of a state of emergency has been widely discussed, Yeltsin gave no hint in his televised address of intending to declare one. Putin, on boarding his plane to return to Moscow from New Zealand, said he thought that a state of emergency would be unwise (RTR, September 13). On the other hand, a source in Putin’s inner circle was quoted as saying that if more terrorist bombings take place, a state of emergency might become inevitable (Moskovsky komsomolets, September 14).

The leaders of Russia’s major opposition parties also spoke out against imposing a state of emergency, though not necessarily on principle. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said a state of emergency would only make sense if the country were run by a strong, authoritative leader, and thus that it would be unwise today. Former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who now heads the Fatherland-All Russia coalition, also spoke out against imposing one, saying that it would not put an end to terrorism and warning that it could be used by “various forces for political ends.”

Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, Russia is Our Home Duma faction head Vladimir Ryzhkov, and Russia’s Democratic Choice leader Sergei Yushenkov, all backed a state of emergency for the territory of Dagestan or throughout the Caucasus region, but not nationwide. Likewise, Aleksandr Kotenkov, Yeltsin’s representative in the Duma, said that a state of emergency might be imposed in certain regions, but would not interfere with elections. Mikhail Prusak, governor of Novgorod Oblast, warned that a state of emergency would “only worsen the situation and lead to a vacuum of power” (ORT, RTR, NTV, Russian agencies, September 13). Ryzhkov, meanwhile, called on the parliament to pass a state of emergency law, and Seleznev said that parliament would soon take it up. The Duma speaker added that an antiterrorism law passed in July, which mandates the creation of a counterterrorist command and some curbs on civil liberties, could be invoked in the meantime (Moscow Times, September 14).

In any case, the Moscow authorities appear determined to impose something resembling a de facto state of emergency. Luzhkov has ordered all apartment buildings to be put under police guard and all visitors to the capital be registered within three days. Visitors who cannot provide a legitimate reason for their presence may be deported. Luzhkov emphasized that special attention would be given to visitors from the Caucasus, above all from Chechnya. During the period following the October 1993 parliamentary uprising, when a curfew was imposed in Moscow for two weeks, large numbers of Caucasians were deported from Moscow, and there were many reports of police abuses.

The steps taken in Moscow thus far, however, seem more rhetorical than real. NTV’s correspondents, for example, phoned the “02” emergency number for the police from various regions, and the line was either busy or no one answered. the Monitor’s correspondent did not observe police guarding apartment buildings.