Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 168

Virtually all of Russia’s major politicians appear to believe that yesterday’s terrorist bombing in Moscow–along with a similar blast last week in the capital and yet another earlier this month in Buinaksk, Dagestan–were the work of Chechen terrorists and/or their followers in Dagestan. However, Shamil Basaev, the rebel Chechen commander who led the incursion of Islamic radical forces into Dagestan, categorically denied that Islamic fighters were involved in any of the recent bombings. Basaev, in an interview with Agence France Presse, said that the attacks were connected with “Russian domestic politics” and that claims by the Russian government that Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden was behind the events in Dagestan were “lies” (Russian agencies, September 13).

Meanwhile, Moskovsky komsomolets–a popular newspaper sympathetic to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and strongly critical of the Kremlin “family,” particularly Boris Berezovsky–has been pushing the idea that the Kremlin itself was behind the bombings. Yesterday morning’s edition, which was already in print at the time of yesterday’s blast, suggested that Russia’s security services might have been behind last week’s bombing and were preparing a second one. This morning, the paper published what it said were parts of transcripts from conversations earlier this summer between “a man with a voice similar to Boris Berezovsky’s” and a man with a voice similar to Movladi Udugov’s, the former Chechen government official who is now the unofficial spokesman for the radical Chechen opposition, including field commanders Basaev and Khattab. The conversation partners appear to be on familiar terms, and appear to discuss transfers of money (from the person resembling Berezovsky to the Chechen radicals) (Moskovsky komsomolets, September 13-14).

If Moskovsky komsomolets tends to be tendentious, it is worth noting that last month, the respected military affairs journalist Aleksandr Zhilin wrote in the newspaper Moskovskaya pravda that the Kremlin had hatched a plan to discredit Luzhkov through terrorist acts in Moscow (Moscow Times, September 14).

Meanwhile, ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky got on the conspiracy bandwagon yesterday, calling for the immediate arrest of Berezovsky and Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed. Zhirinovsky said he was sure that “provocations” would continue in the country as long as these two men were at liberty. He also called for the immediate nationalization of Russian Public Television, which is generally thought to be controlled by Berezovsky.

[The Monitor continues its series of profiles of the candidates in Ukraine’s presidential election. See profiles in the Monitor, July 30, August 6, September 1, 3, 8.]