By Antero Leitzinger
Translation from Finnish by Anssi Kullberg
Source: Eurasian Culture Institute - Helsinki
Date: February, 2000


The Western political research has been credulous in relation to ostensibly democratising societies, such as Russia. In reality, a political culture does not change in a moment, and it is not easy to be released from old habits and customs. Russia is still governed by the secret police, although its leader now uses the more democratic titles of prime minister and, since the New Year, acting president. Also among the other presidential candidates, former KGB officials are strongly represented. Does this signal a return to totalitarianism?

Russia has governed her people through provocations, pogroms against minorities, and interventions committed against neighbours. All these were adapted to the Chechens since latest the 1860s, when the conquest of Caucasia was "completed". The strategy has been based on the "divide and conquer" method, used already by the ancient Romans, but every now and then it has been completed with direct military aggressions (1939-40, 1994-96, 1999-) and genocides.

History of Provocations in Russia

The goal of provocations is to infiltrate political oppositions, to stage them as criminals, and to agitate common hysteria. Already the police chief of the French Emperor Napoleon I, Joseph Fouch, learned the practical skills of politics 200 years ago: "A real police chief must always have at least two or three conspiracies in his suitcase."

The use of provocations spread in the 1820s to other parts of Europe, too, as an effective weapon against revolutionary movements. The Prussian espionage chief Wilhelm Stieber imported this knowledge to Russia, too, where a special attraction to conspiracy theories has prevailed ever since. (Richard Deacon: "A History of the Russian Secret Service", London 1972, p. 67-68.)

"In May 1862 a series of devastating fires broke out in St. Petersburg. Their origin remains obscure, but they were widely attributed to Nihilist students. The Nihilists for their part blamed the fires on police 'provocation' - a word which becomes increasingly common from now onwards to describe acts undertaken or instigated by the police in order to discredit and trap revolutionaries. That the fires were started by the police was maintained on the pages of Herzen's Bell. Whoever did or did not ignite the tinder, the result was a wave of revulsion against the Nihilists, which made it easier for the government to impose repressive measures... against freedom of speech." (Ronald Hingley: "The Russian Secret Police", New York 1990, p. 51-52)

The provocations developed into their climax in the late czarist times, when especially the Bolsheviks were subject to the plots of the secret police, Ohrana - yet they also took the lesson of them. "Chekists very quickly learned to keep one step ahead of their quarry by resorting to the tactic of provocation, which indeed became standard Cheka practice, and a most effective one... In this, as in other techniques, the Vecheka modelled itself on the Okhrana, which had penetrated some of the main revolutionary parties - and especially the Bolsheviks - so competently through its agents provocateurs." (George Leggett: "The Cheka - Lenin's Political Police", Oxford 1981, p. 302)

Also in Finland, the Investigating Central Police (EK) was in troubles in the 1920s, when the Cheka infiltrated its agents over the border, among refugees, and pretending to be supporters of the czarist rule. In the years 1921-1927 a feigned conspiracy called the "Trust" managed to damage permanently the reputation of the emigrants. (Leggett, p. 297.) The later president of Finland Urho Kekkonen, who was in the service of the EK in these times, planned the use of provocateurs to be the subject of his doctor's thesis. (Matti Simola & Jukka Salovaara: "Turvallisuuspoliisi 75 vuotta 1919-1994", Helsinki 1994, p. 55.)

History of Pogroms in Russia

Besides political parties, whole groups of people were branded by using provocations. In the 1800s, the most opportune ones for such branding were the Jews. People were commonly led to imagine that the Jews were planning a world revolution, and to prove this claim, the Ohrana falsified a document called "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". This provocation is still inspiring anti-Semitic organisations around the world. [It must be remembered that in the 1800s the propaganda against the Jews, albeit it would sound absurd today, was taken seriously by large share of the population, in the same way that the anti-Muslim propaganda has spread today. AKK.]

"A more serious by-product...was the outbreak, in spring 1881, of anti-Jewish pogroms, largely in the Ukraine. For these the Imperial authorities, including local police organisations, were partly to blame - if not for directly instigating such outrages, at least for conniving at them. ... Pogroms recurred over several years, but the nation as a whole seemed...relapsing into political apathy..." (Hingley, p. 70.)

In Odessa, in October 1905, hundreds of Jews were massacred in a pogrom provoked by the Ohrana. This incident has been studied thoroughly by Robert Weinbert. (Pogroms - anti-Jewish violence in modern Russian history, Cambridge 1902, p. 248-289.) In February of the same year, the same methods were used in Baku, in order to provoke the Muslims and the Armenians against each other. (Isaac Deutscher: Stalin, London 1967, p. 68.)

After the World War II, especially the Americans have taken care of that anti-Semitism cannot be fomented as far as into pogroms. When Russia has become economically dependent on the United States support, the Jews as a favourite target of hate-agitating have been replaced with the Caucasians, whom the Russians call contemptuously "the Blacks", and whom they accuse of all kind of criminality.

Mysterious Bomb Explosions

According to Russian research, the mafia reputation of the Caucasians is heavily exaggerated. In August 1995, the Caucasians were responsible of only 4,4 per cent of Moscow's crimes - in which number the share of the Chechens was only 0,18 per cent. (Moskovskiy Komsomolets, 13th August 1996.) It may express the situation somewhat, that one year earlier the share of persons formally accused of crimes in Moscow was, however, as much as 20,6 per cent. (Argumenty i fakty, 10th August 1995.) At the same time, the investigation, solving, bringing the guilty to the court, and conviction, in crimes committed by ethnic Russians is relatively rare.

The Russian literature has produced an image of savage and cruel Chechens already since the 1800s. The image was strengthened when Stalin deported the whole nation from their homeland, falsely claiming them to be loyal to the Germans, although the war had not even reached as far as Chechenia. A new slander campaign began after the fall of the Soviet Union. Then the targets were two prominent Chechens, yet politically totally opposite to each other, who had both in their own ways got the hatred of Boris Yeltsin's regime upon them: Dzoxar Dudayev, who had declared his country independent in autumn 1991, and Ruslan Hasbulatov, who lead a rebellion in Moscow one year later. The reputation of them both could be damaged by fomenting fear and hatred against the Chechens as far as abroad. The bloody invasion and the humiliation of the Russian army, as the Chechen guerrillas liberated their capital in August 1996 - soon after Yeltsin's inauguration - left a desire of revenge to smoulder.

Last September, bombs exploded in a shopping centre and in apartment blocks in Moscow. The guilty ones were never found, but very soon everybody "knew" that they would be Chechens. The militia arrested tens of thousands of people, judging by "dark" appearance, and when the arrested proved to be mostly Caucasians, the arrests were used as a new evidence of the "natural" criminal tendencies of Chechens.

The Muscovian researcher Andrei Piontkovsky had already in summer 1998 been able to predict, that the next Chechen war would be preceded by explosions in Moscow. (Suomen Kuvalehti 48/ 3rd December 1999, p. 12.) Moskovskaya Pravda had published in July 1999 a secret plan [operation 'Storm in Moscow'], which predicted bombs preceding the Duma election. (Novaya Gazeta, 20th November 1999.)

Besides prophets, the Moscow bombs seemed to have imitators. In the city of Ryazan, on 23rd September, three sugar sacks containing hidden explosives and a timer were discovered in an apartment block. At first the FSB [Russian secret service] announced that the incident was undoubtedly connected with the earlier bomb blasts. (Fakty i kommentarii 24th September 1999.) Then it was discovered that the bomb had been installed by agents of the FSB! At the same time it was remarked that in the sacks there was too much sugar that the bomb would have exploded with full volume. (Kommersant, 24th September 1999.) Finally the FSB admitted that it had installed the bomb for practise, in order to test the alertness of the inhabitants. The local authority, however, wondered why there was a bomb at all in the sack, and why nobody had been informed of any kind of practice. (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 25th September and 12th October 1999.)

It remained an enigma, if the wave of terror in September ended with the embarrassing "bomb simulation" of Ryazan, or with the war in Chechenia, which Russia was suddenly very excellently prepared to start and to continue. The Russian press gave itself into the power of war fanaticism, and mainly just the foreigners were wondering, what had been actually the motive of the terrorists, and who they were. The only one benefiting of the bomb incidents was the chief of the FSB, the fresh Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose popularity as a successor of Yeltsin was suddenly raised from nothing to top results. Through Putin, also the new party that had been founded to back the regime, benefited, and won the Duma election. The traces of the bomb explosions in Moscow were repaired so quickly that any more profound investigations could not be done.

But even conspiracy theories are not necessary. Since 1995, there have been over 40 bomb blasts to apartment blocks in Russia, and none of them has been solved. (Der Spiegel 37/1999, p. 197.) If the apparent series of bomb blasts is just a coincidence, the FSB has practised only disinformation instead of provocations.

Disinformation in Russia

Disinformation is a form of propaganda, in which the KGB in its time succeeded excellently. It means spreading false information, and leading astray the media. At its most skilful, the disinformation is indirect and aims at directing the discussion unnoticed instead of direct lying. For example the information centre founded by Russia (RusInformTsentr) started its tour in Helsinki on 21st October by spreading various papers, whose purpose was to offer suitable subjects for the journalists to write about.

One paper was a list of bomb blasts made in the Moscow subway. Yet not a single case of them was even attempted to be connected with Chechens, and the first incident was already from 1970s, when, among others, an Armenian dissident Stepan Zatikyan was executed as a terrorist, although he had an alibi and he lacked a motive. In that time as well Andrei Sakharov as Amnesty International applied for Zatikyan. When the KGB was formally abolished, the case was in publicity as an example of the arbitrary terror of the KGB, but according to the present FSB, the KGB did after all act correctly, and the innocent victims of that judicial murder were proved guilty, "dangerous recidivists".

Another paper was a vague and chaotic overview to Islamic extremist movements, but the paper aimed at exposing their heinous plans for the destruction of not only Russia, but also Europe. According to this disinformation, their goals include, among others, a) "to make Islam the second state church in France", and b) to lobby laws favouring Moslems in the West German parliament". These are quite goals, as there is not even a first state church in France, and a West German parliament has not existed for soon ten years!

A third paper was a document of the Russian Ministry for the Federation and Nationalities of the Russian Federation, that, in its history of Chechenia, totally ignores the last war, and jumps directly from the year 1991 to 1997. Meanwhile, the population of Chechenia collapsed "due to the prevailing criminality and emigration". The majority of Chechens is said to "absolutely support the war that will promote the social and spiritual revival of the Chechen people".

Finally, a fourth paper attempted to connect Islamism, terrorism, and Chechenia with each other. It referred of course to Osama bin Laden, who has been sighted, alone during the past year, when in Kosovo, when as far as in Cambodia. Apparently the goal is to make the Western public believe that bin Laden is making travels from Afghanistan all around the world to blow up bombs for the destruction of the French state church and West Germany, and that the Russian army is having in Chechenia a crusade for the European civilisation!

Naturally the disinformation campaign of Russia is neglecting all questions about the relationship of the KGB with the terrorism in 1970s, and radical Islamism of 1980s. It mentions nothing about the support that the representatives of Iraq and Iran declare for the Russian war campaign in Chechenia, and neither anything about the warm relations of Russia and Turkmenistan with the Taliban. It does not tell, why Osama bin Laden is known of his attacks against American, not Russian, targets. For the support of their disinformation campaign, the Russians have presented violence videos, which are claimed to present the cruelty of Chechen kidnappers against their hostages. It remains totally unclear, where and when the videos have been recorded, by whom, and for which possible purpose. Why would Chechens have wanted to frighten representatives of international help organisations and foreign reporters out of their territory after the last war? Why the base of the groups running the hostage taking business was the city of Urus Martan, where the inhabitants are known to have been relatively loyal to Russia? Why Yeltsin released the Urus-Martanian politician Bislan Gantamirov from a prison in November; Gantamirov, who was convicted in Moscow for embezzlement, and who right so promised to serve Russia - after having rebelled against Dudayev already over five years ago?

It may be that the FSB is only guilty to mere disinformation, exploiting suitable "evidence" or misunderstandings. However, it is equally possible that the FSB, like its predecessor the KGB, has also created "evidence" whenever needed. Then the activity is again provocation, where some human lives are sacrificed for advocating a greater purpose - isolation of the Chechens, and victory of Russia. Would that be too shocking to be credible?

At all events, the September bomb blasts of Moscow, and the video tapes on Chechen cruelties that have been produced during the few years, fulfilled their purpose like a most successful provocation. Nobody has asked how safe is life in the loyal Dagestan, or elsewhere in the Caucasus, although some released hostages did remark that their kidnappers were not at all (solely) Chechens.

Is the Truth more Miraculous than Tales?

A Russian general informed that also a body of a Finnish "mercenary" was found in the battlefields. When the claim was investigated, it was rejected. What may be the case with the almost legendary Baltic female ski sniper battalion, who, according to the same sources of information, is making its adventures among the foreign "mercenaries" of the Caucasus? However, the soldiers of the Russian army cannot be called mercenaries, as they are not paid their salary?

The bad tangle of lies has all over again got such scales that the Western public has it difficult to believe what it sees and what it hears the representatives of Russia to claim. The army is not going to attack Chechenia - and it attacks. The army is not going to seize the city of Dzoxar (former Grozny) - and yet it rushes directly into ambuscade. Hundreds of corpses are lying on the ground, but nobody was killed. There are no refugees - there are just people displaced from one place in Russia to another. Chechenia is a part of Russia, and the Chechens are equal citizens of Russia, but still they can be closed into "filtration camps", and they can be bombed.

It is difficult for the Western reporters, researchers, and politicians to believe the "conspiracy theories", if they hint that the FSB is capable of even some of what its predecessor the KGB was capable of, by the very same officials. In spite of that, Russia seems to believe that all the rest of the world is in conspiracy against Russia, and that the international news agencies are working for this Jewish-bourgeois-Islamist conspiracy, when they suspect the official information given by Russia.

Unfortunately history teaches that in Russia, things are often exactly as bad as they are feared to be. This is not only due to Russians, and due to the lack of democratic traditions, but due to the same problem that was faced in Western attitudes at Germany in the 1930s. The outside world did not believe - and neither did the Germans themselves at that time - before it was too late for millions of people.


"Protocols of the Elders of Zion"

A lesson on disinformation is offered by Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 17th December 1999 in an article that tells the history of the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". It is not a long way from the sensation of the last century shift to the challenges of the present media environment.

The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" was based on a writing of a Frenchman called Maurice Joly from 1864. Joly attacked against Emperor Napoleon III, but in the Russian version "Napoleon" has been replaced with "the Jews". Who had a Russian version made of the book, and why? Can it be proved that Joly did not, in the contrary, change some genuine, common, original source? A St. Petersburgian researcher Mikhail Lepekhin has investigated the issue in the Russian archives, and he published the results in November 1999:

In 1899 the ultra-reactionary Ivan Goremykin, who had been fired from the post of minister of internal affairs, decided together with the co-ordinator of foreign espionage, Pyotr Rachkovsky, to persuade Czar Nicholas II to their own stand by writing a "document" that would show that industrialisation of the country, privatisation of state monopolies, use of foreign capital loan, releasing the censorship, and education of the people were a "conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons". Rachkovsky gave the task to his agent Matvei Golovinsky, stationed in Paris, as he had experience of literary falsifications.

This was how the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were born - at first as one copy, which the confessor priest of the Czar was meant to bring to the Czar's consciousness personally. The Czar family was well-known of their prejudice, suspiciousness and being fond of mysticism. The plan, however, failed, as suddenly a wrong man was appointed to the confessor priest, and not the theologist publisher Sergei Nilus. Now the idea had to be spread into a larger publicity, and so Nilus published the "protocols" as an appendix of his own book's second edition in 1905. The book itself did not raise any larger attention, but its appendix became a bestseller that finally found its way to the library of the Czar family, too. It continued its own life long after both Nilus (in 1912) and the Czar family (in 1918) had died.

Golovinsky became after the revolution a passionate communist, but he died already in 1920. Alfred Rosenberg had the text translated into German, and the car industrialist Henry Ford into English. After this, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" were serving the goals of the German national socialists and other anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists.


A Hidden Hand of Provocation

The British newspaper The Independent has published an article, according to which the Russian military intelligence, the GRU, together with the FSB, organised the September bomb blasts. This claim is not a new one, and there have not yet been certain evidence for it. According to the article, in the video recorded by a Turkish reporter, also other GRU officers are mentioned by name, but apparently the newspaper did not want to publish them yet. The incapability of the Russian authorities to prove any of their own accusation has fomented suspicions of the possibility of a provocation. It is believed by, among others, the Duma Representative Konstantin Borovoi, who has told that he has got same kind of information from the GRU. (Monitor, 11th January 2000.)

The credibility of the Russian authorities was hardly improved by Colonel Yakov Firsov's objection, either: "The Russian military is protecting the people. It is impossible that they would attack against their own people." (The Independent, 6th January 2000.) At the same time Russia rejected the Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov's offer for a cease-fire, during which foreign experts could have investigated, who had used chemical weapons.

The last president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, admits in an interview, that any clarity of who did the bomb blasts was never got. He, however, finds it enough that some Chechens invaded Dagestan in August. (Der Spiegel 2/ 10th Jan. 2000.) In fact also this has been lately questioned and debated ever more often. Helen Womack, reporter of the British newspaper, tells about a meeting of Putin's election team, where Grigory Amnouel boasted that it was Moscow's disinformation that had cheated Shamil Basayev to invade Dagestan in false beliefs: "They were made think that it would be easy, but it was a trap." (The Independent, 9th Jan. 2000.)


The Regime that Bombs its Own Civilians

American journalists have waken up to study the theory, according to which the September bomb blasts were a provocation by the FSB. The New York Times columnist William Safire wrote about the "bomb simulation" of Ryazan on 17th January, after Maura Reynolds had published a detailed study of the case in Los Angeles Times on 15th January:

Saturday, January 15, 2000
Los Angeles Times

Fears of Bombing Turn to Doubts for Some in Russia

Terrorism: Told of attempt to blow up their apartments, residents fled.
Now they're wary of their own government.

By MAURA REYNOLDS, Times Staff Writer

RYAZAN, Russia -On a chilly night last September, bus driver Alexei Kartofelnikov saw a suspicious car parked outside the 13-story apartment building where he lives in this working-class city. He called the police, who discovered three sacks of powder and a timing device in the basement.

The sacks tested positive for explosives. The building's residents were evacuated and, haunted by the knowledge that 300 sleeping Russians had been killed in recent weeks in a wave of early-morning apartment bombings, spent the night dozing fitfully in a nearby movie theatre.

Late the next day, security officials in Moscow, about 100 miles away, announced that it had all been a civil defence drill. The sacks, they said, contained nothing but sugar.

Since then, Kartofelnikov and the other residents have kept asking themselves: Was it really just an exercise to test their vigilance? Or were they nearly the next victims of the bombers-whoever they might be?

The government has yet to find the bombers. Security officials insist the culprits are linked to fighters in the separatist republic of Chechnya but have produced no conclusive evidence. For the most part, Russians buy the explanation: They have little love for the rebellious Chechens and believe that their new war against them is just payback to the "terrorists."

But some Russians fear that the truth is darker, and the 250 residents of Kartofelnikov's building are among them. At a minimum, they believe that the government is covering up something. At a maximum, they fear that the government might itself have played a role in the bombings.

Kartofelnikov, 47, considers himself a sensible man. He is not prone to suspicions or conspiracy theories. He tends to give people the benefit of the doubt. But at this point, he has too much doubt.

"Somebody tried to blow us up," he says. "I have no doubt about that. But as for who did it, or why -I don't know what to think."

But he does know what came next. The government, citing the attacks, went to war against Chechnya.

"The government started bombing Chechnya the next day," Kartofelnikov says quietly. "I know Chechens. I served with them in the army. They are good people. How can one suspect them of such a thing? How can one suspect it of anybody?"

Ivan Kirilin, a scrappy 67-year-old who talks through a cigarette, also has his suspicions.

"Who should I believe-what the government says or what was in the basement?" he says. "I don't think the Chechens would blow up a residential house. You have to ask -who is responsible for the war? Who needed the war? The government, of course."

Government Moves to Quell Questions

Questions of government complicity in the bombing campaign are persistent enough that the Kremlin has taken steps to quash them. Just this week, the government's war press centre released a video purporting to show a bomb-making factory in the Chechen town of Urus-Martan that security officials say manufactured the bombs.

The video showed sacks of chemicals that government investigators identified as ammonium nitrate, which they said was used in the Moscow bombs. The investigators also said they found instruction booklets from Casio watches that were used as the bombs' timing devices.

The government explanations have a polemic tone-lots of generalisation, few specifics. And they beg the question: Even if the Moscow bombs were made in Urus-Martan, who ordered them in the first place?

In Ryazan, the government's assertions have made little headway against residents' suspicions. There are too many details that don't fit. And there's the undeniable fact that the bombings led to the war, and the war fed the rise of Vladimir V. Putin.

Putin was head of the KGB's main successor agency, the FSB, until just a few weeks before the bombings. He is now prime minister and acting president, and nothing appears to stand in the way of his becoming president in an election in March.

"The authorities are trying hard to hush it up and hide everything," says Tatiana Borycheva, 45. "I don't believe the Chechens were behind it. I think it's a big political game. People are fighting for power, and our lives are not worth a kopeck in their game. I think somebody wanted to set up the Chechens to start the war and grab power."

Nearly four months after the bomb scare, residents keep reviewing the sequence of events, seeking some kind of answers to their questions.

Kartofelnikov was returning home about 9:10 p.m. when he noticed an ordinary Russian Zhiguli automobile parked next to his building's entrance. The car had an unusual license plate number, however -as a professional driver, Kartofelnikov tends to notice such things. And when he got closer, he realized it was more than unusual- the last two numbers, which in Russia indicate the city in which the car is registered, had been pasted over with a hand-drawn piece of paper. The glued-on number was 62, for Ryazan. Underneath, he could see the real number- -77, for Moscow.

At the time, the country was in near-hysteria over the bombing campaign, in which five bombs had wreaked havoc in three cities. Authorities had urged citizens to report suspicious activities near their homes.

So Kartofelnikov called the police. A few minutes later, so did Vladimir Vassiliev, a 53-year-old radio engineer, who not only saw the Zhiguli and the pasted-on license numbers but got a look at the people inside before it pulled away. There were two men and a woman, he says. They looked not like Chechens, who tend to be darker-skinned, but like Russians.

Still, Vassiliev wasn't taking any chances. After all, the building had many of the same characteristics as the apartment houses in Moscow. It was tall, with a single entrance, a store on the first floor, little security and open access to the basement.

By 9:20, the police were on their way. The car was gone by the time they arrived. They went straight to the basement and found the sacks of white powder and the timing device. The bomb squad did a quick test and detected explosive vapours.

"Our preliminary tests showed the presence of explosives," says Lt. Col. Sergei Kabashov, chief of the local police precinct. "We weren't told it was a test. As far as we were concerned, the danger was real."

The local branch of the FSB was also in the dark.

"We were not informed about the exercise in advance, and that's why we acted in full and by the book," says Yury V. Bludov, spokesman for the security agency's Ryazan regional office.

The building was evacuated, with the exception of five invalids who could not be moved. Investigators from the police, the FSB and the federal Emergencies Ministry combed the building for more explosives. The residents were permitted to return to their apartments at 7 a.m. The timing device on the sacks had reportedly been set for 5:30 a.m.-the same time that the Moscow bombs had gone off.

Telltale Traces of Powder Disappear

Vassiliev, the radio engineer, watched the police load the sacks into the back of a police car. He says that they looked like ordinary 100-pound bags of sugar and that some of the white powder fell on the ground. But when a resident who works in a chemical lab went to take a sample the next day, the spill had been cleaned up.

It was late the next day, during the evening news, that FSB chief Nikolai P. Patrushev announced that the bomb scare had been just a drill. Nearly 24 hours had passed.

"Of course no investigation is going on now in relation to this case. It was just an exercise," says Bludov, the FSB spokesman in Ryazan.

Without an investigation to probe further, residents will keep asking themselves the same questions:

a) If it really was a test, why did the authorities wait nearly 24 hours to say so?
b) Who was being tested? The residents? The local police? The local FSB?
c) Why haven't there been reports of tests in other cities?

And then there are larger questions concerning the overall bombing campaign:

a) Why would Chechen terrorists kill defenceless civilians in anonymous apartment buildings instead of choosing public targets like train stations or government buildings?
b) Why has there been no credible claim of responsibility? Chechen authorities have denied any involvement by the separatists.
c) Why were the remains of the Moscow buildings razed so quickly? In the days after the Ryazan incident, the local FSB chief came to speak to the apartment building's residents. He apologised but told them that filing a suit for damages would probably lead nowhere.

So the residents asked for- and got -a new entranceway of heavy white brick, with an intercom security system. And they haven't filed a suit or a formal complaint.

"The general opinion is that we'd better not challenge them or they will really blow us up next time," says Tatiana Lukichyova, 51.

Vassiliev would like to forget the whole thing: He can't believe that it was just an exercise, but he doesn't like the line of thought that follows.

"We have been manipulated. But by whom, and for what purpose, I can't say," he says. "I'm afraid we'll never know what really happened."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Author: Antero Leitzinger, historian, researcher of the Finnish Bureau of Immigration, author of several books concerning the Caucasus, Middle East and the former Soviet Union


© 2007 Chechen Republic Online