Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 61

Russia’s Federal Security Service put out an appeal last night asking anyone who might have specific information involving yesterday’s attempted rocketing of the U.S. embassy in Moscow to come forward. The appeal, which was read during “Itogi,” NTV television’s weekly news analysis program, specifically appealed to drivers who were near the Opel jeep which was chauffeuring the attackers (NTV, March 28).

The failed rocket-propelled grenade attack (RPG) took place in the early afternoon on the section of the Garden Ring Road which runs past the U.S. embassy. Demonstrations have taken place in front of the embassy every day since the start last week of the NATO actions in the former Yugoslavia. The attempted attack, which was captured by home video, clearly showed a masked individual in camouflage get out of the Opel and try to fire the RPG, which did not function properly. According to eyewitnesses, the attacker was going for a second RPG when some among the many Russian police near the embassy opened fire on him. Someone in the Opel responded with automatic weapons’ fire, but, miraculously, no one was hurt, and the jeep took off at high speed. The vehicle was abandoned nearby, along with several helmets used by Russian “spetsnaz” special forces. Television reports showed that the Opel was riddled with bullet holes, but that there were no blood trails; apparently none of the three reported passengers were hurt. Demonstrators were cleared away from the front of the embassy after the incident, reportedly at the request of the United States.

Yesterday, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin, President Boris Yeltsin discussed the abortive attack with Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin and his new chief of staff, Aleksandr Voloshin–and gave an order that the incident be investigated (Russian agencies, March 28). Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov ordered tightened security around all embassies in Moscow. Luzhkov, while on a visit today to Baku, said: “People must be free to express their views, but without harming anybody or attempting terrorist attacks” (Russian agencies, March 29).

Both Gennady Zyuganov, head of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, refused categorically to condemn the attack. Zhirinovsky, who was wearing an army reserve officer’s uniform, told NTV that the attack was a “normal situation” given the anger over NATO’s actions. He added that it may have been a “provocation” by U.S. “special services” aimed at having the demonstrators removed from outside the embassy. Asked for his view, Zyuganov said that it was necessary to talk about “the main terrorist [responsible]” and that if you start a war, you get a guerrilla war in response. He also said the incident may have been a “provocation.” During an emergency debate held March 27 on the Balkans crisis, Zyuganov charged that the United States had gone down “the path of Hitlerism.” Even Vladimir Ryzhkov, a leader of the relatively moderate Russian is Our Home faction in the State Duma, was equivocal in his condemnation of the attack, saying that it could have led to the death or injury of “our people” standing outside the embassy. All three men were interviewed on NTV’s “Itogi” (NTV, March 28).