Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 174

At the same time, some Russia politicians oppose the United States in its proclaimed antiterrorism battle and even question whether Osama bin Laden was responsible for the September 11 attacks. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said late last week that he believed that the September 11 attacks in the United States were part of a “well-planned provocation by the special services of those states that profit from the political situation in the world after the events in New York.” Lying behind the attacks, said the LDPR leader, was “the desire of American oil companies to raise oil prices, secure Israel, beat the necessary financial resources out of the U.S. Congress and give a green light to the military-industrial complex. And on an international scale, to bring a majority of the world’s states under complete subjugation and force [them] to agree to a U.S. diktat in the area of international relations.” Zhirinovsky also said he believed Osama bin Laden was working in close contact with and receiving funds from the CIA. The LDPR leader called on President Vladimir Putin to turn toward “the East,” and called on Arabs, Iranians and Afghans to unite and express solidarity with the Orthodox world and Russia. “Together we are capable of resisting the main aggressor–the United States and Western Christianity, which over the last fifty years have unleashed hundreds of wars that have killed millions of citizens, above all Muslims,” Zhirinovsky said (NTV.ru, September 20).

Echoing his boss, another top LDPR official, Aleksei Mitrofanov, said in an interview that he had met bin Laden several years ago and that the Saudi-born terrorist had said he had nothing against Russia. Mitrofanov called the allegations that bin Laden was financing Chechen separatists “a fabrication by the Americans” (Komsomolskaya Pravda, September 22). In a similar fashion, Gennady Zyuganov, leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), denounced U.S. President George Bush’s September 20 speech to the U.S. Congress as “dangerous.” Zyuganov said that the U.S. decision to launch an antiterrorist operation had effectively nullified the Potsdam Agreement (the 1945 agreement between the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain over dividing up rule over the defeated Germany). The Communist leader accused the United States of having taken on the role of the world’s judge, prosecutor and executioner and said this represented “real terrorism at the state level” (Finmarket, September 21).

It is not only politicians from Russia’s ideological extremes who have been putting forward such views. For example, the newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which is controlled by the self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, published several articles last week raising doubts that Osama bin Laden specifically or Islamist terrorists more generally were behind the September 11 attacks. One article, noting the evidence of stock manipulation days before the attack (the authorities in various countries are investigating whether someone connected to bin Laden shorted shares in airline companies and insurers at various exchanges around the globe prior to the attacks), suggested that “certain market speculators” were behind the attacks. The article all but ruled out the possibility that Islamic extremists manipulated the markets, arguing that the Koran prohibits such activities. And while the article stressed that it was only discussing a “hypothesis” and did not name names, it did devote a half a paragraph to the past currency-speculating activities of George Soros, the American financier. Nezavisimaya Gazeta also ran an interview with Geidar Jemal, chairman of the Islamic Committee of Russia, who claimed that the September 11 attacks in the United States were “the result of a conspiracy of the international oligarchy with fascist elements within the American administration and power structures” (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 20). Perhaps in response to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta articles, the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, which has traditionally been close to Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and hostile to Berezovsky, today cited unattributed rumors that firms directly linked to Berezovsky were involved in stock manipulations prior to the September 11 attacks and that U.S. intelligence was examining Berezovsky’s connections to Chechen separatists (Moskovsky Komsomolets, September 24).

Meanwhile, Kommersant, which is controlled by Berezovsky, reported today that the Spanish special services were looking into reports that associates of bin Laden had met with Semyon Mogilevich, the reputed Russian mafia boss, at the Spanish resort of Marbella. The paper, citing the French and British special services, reported that Mogilevich had sold radioactive materials to a company belonging to bin Laden. According to Kommersant, members of bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network were arrested in Paris this past August and found to be carrying U-235, a radioactive material used in nuclear weapons, in a suitcase. The paper claimed that Mogilevich, in addition to being the target of an international manhunt for allegedly selling radioactive materials and laundering money made from sales of stolen art, is wanted by the FBI for laundering US$10 billion made from the sales of narcotics produced in Afghanistan (Kommersant, September 24).