Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 27

Not surprisingly, the disappearance of Radio Liberty correspondent Andrei Babitsky following his purported February 3 exchange for Russian POWs in Chechnya has given rise to a host of theories. According to one, Babitsky was simply killed or made to disappear in order to prevent him from talking about the torture he endured and/or witnessed during his incarceration (Moskovsky komsomolets, February 8). According to another, put forward by the pro-Putin RTR state television channel, Babitsky’s disappearance was an attempt by someone (unnamed) to “set up” Putin (RTR, February 6).

Meanwhile, a newspaper last weekend cited the comments of an anonymous Russian special services officer, who said that Babitsky may have learned from Chechen rebel leaders “the truth” about an alleged meeting last summer between rebel commander Shamil Basaev and top Russian officials in southern France, about the background to the Basaev-led invasion of Dagestan last August and about “who blew up the apartment buildings in Russian cities” last autumn (Segodnya, February 5).

Last summer, the newspaper Versiya reported that Basaev and a man “looking much like” Kremlin chief of staff Aleksandr Voloshin” had met at Saudi millionaire Adnan Kashoggi’s villa in France (see the Monitor, August 3, 1999). The same newspaper recently reported that Basaev and his brother Shirvani had long worked for Russian military intelligence, that the authorities in Moscow had allowed their forces to invade Dagestan last August and that Shirvani’s group was responsible for the September bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian cities (Versiya, February 1). Two weeks ago another newspaper alleged that Boris Berezovsky and United Energy Systems head Anatoly Chubais were involved in rival plots to put forward their successors to Boris Yeltsin (Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed and Putin, respectively), both of which plots included conspiring with Chechen rebels to trigger a conflict in the North Caucasus (Novaya gazeta, January 24).