Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 6 Issue: 3

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently granted political asylum to Alyona Morozava, the 28-year-old woman who lost her mother and boyfriend in the September 1999 explosion that destroyed her apartment building on Ulitsa Guryanova in southern Moscow. Ms. Morozava participated in the work of the public commission set up to investigate the September 1999 bombings in Moscow and other cities, which killed nearly 300 people. She first requested political asylum following the April 2003 murder of a member of that commission, State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov. In October 2003, Morozova’s lawyer, Mikhail Trepashkin, a former state security officer, was arrested on a weapons charge that human rights activists claim was trumped-up. His arrest occurred just before he was to present evidence in court pointing to Russian special services’ complicity in the apartment building bombings. Trepashkin was sentenced to four years in prison last year.

Sergei Kovalev, the veteran human rights campaigner who headed the public commission looking into the 1999 bombings, told Novye izvestia he was happy Morozova had been granted asylum in the U.S., the newspaper reported on January 18. However, Kovalev added: “But it shames me greatly that our citizens, our suffering citizens, have to appeal to other countries for help.”

Alex Goldfarb, director of the New York office of the Foundation for Civil Liberties, a group funded by Putin opponent Boris Berezovsky, told the Los Angeles Times that the decision suggested “a change of attitude among Western institutions in general toward the issue of the apartment bombings,” particularly following the poisoning of Ukrainian opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko. “Before it was, ‘There’s no absolute proof,’ and so on,” the January 18 edition of the newspaper quoted Goldfarb as saying. “But I would say that the benefit of the doubt that was given generally to the Russian security services and Putin’s regime with regard to the old Cold War dirty operations is gradually diminishing.”