Interview with Turpal-Ali Atgeriyev
Date: April 4, 2002
"I phoned Putin on the special-connection line... "
As Gazeta already yesterday reported, Salman Raduyev and his accomplices in the Kizlyar raid of 1996 - Turpal-Ali Atgeriyev and Aslanbek Alkhazurov were moved from the Makhachkala SIZO # 1 into the Presnensk transfer prison. In a week, on 11th of April, Supreme Court of Russia will examine their appeal of the sentence carried out by the Supreme Court of Daghestan on the 25th of December of last year. One of the main figures of this sensational trial, the former vice- premier of the Chechen Republic Turpal- Ali Atgeriyev answered questions to "Gazeta's" correspondent of on the eve of sending him to Moscow.
I phoned Putin
Q: - At the trial in Makhachkala you mentioned twice of your telephone conversation with Vladimir Putin, which took place on the eve of the incursion of Chechens into Daghestan. In your version, the director of FSB of that time had the real possibility to avoid the bloody events of 1999.
A: - The ministry of state security of CHRI was created during April of 1999. From the first days of my appointment to this post of as its chief, I understood that without the desire of Russian side to fight against kidnapping and terrorism, just myself I can't do it. Therefore, I sent my representative with a proposal to the FSB to sign an agreement, [in which] within the framework of it, we could act jointly. But, the agreement was not signed. The situation, which we proved to be in the fall of 1999, was the result of work of Russian special services.
Kidnappings, which were attributed to the Chechens, were only a link in this criminal chain.
Remaining links one way or another had Russian "registration" - ransom, money, mediators... We needed joint coordination of actions. The project of the agreement, coordinated with the lawful administration of the President of CHRI, was directed to Moscow to the director of FSB - V. Putin during May of 1999. Point 2 of it stated, that the sides negotiate to fight against such heavy crimes as kidnapping and terrorism. Leadership of the FSB was delaying signing of the agreement. In spite of this, we placed on reputation of the director of FSB [plans]about preparations to incursion into Daghestan. It was like this. We analyzed position in the republic on the basis of information that was coming from different sources and every month for President Maskhadov we prepared analytical summary. And here, on one of those days we obtained information that a decision was made to conduct this "Botlikh" action. We rechecked it and were convinced of the authenticity of it. I reported to the President (Maskhadov - "Gazeta") and proposed on behalf of him to phone Putin. We're still hoping for partner relations with the FSB and attempted not to allow for bloody events.
I phone Putin on special-connection line (government connection with Moscow was closed to us). I do not remember the precise number, but definitely the phone call was in advance before these events. Putin answered, I told him that a provocation from the side of Daghestan dzhamaat and some Chechen commanders on the territory of Daghestan was being planned. Putin didn't say anything - he listened with attention. When combat operations in Daghestan began, Maskhadov repeatedly proposed to counter them, but no one at the Kremlin wished even to listen to him.
Berezovsky and others
Q: - Several weeks ago, in the press, they were actively discussing the subject of financing of Chechen fighters by Boris Berezovsky...
A: - If we speak about Berezovsky, then it is necessary to speak about all. (Two-three weeks prior to it, special services stated about Boris Berezovsky's participation in financing of Chechen fighters, in SIZO, Raduyev and Atgeriyev were visited by investigating officers of the FSB. There, they wanted to obtain some information, which would confirm this version. Atgeriyev categorically refused to give any evidence - "Gazeta")
Yes, Berezovsky had released some money - once he gave 2 million dollars to Basayev, when he was caring out responsibilities of the premier of the CHRI government. There were also other infusions from the Russian budget. But, then it is necessary to imprison for this [also] Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin, many others. It's more easily to recall, who did not deal with this. The majority wasn't just simply working, but with self-interest for themselves - they were "sweeping" some sums into their own pocket.
Putin's committed an error, "by marking" all Chechens as bandits. If we proceed from this, then the former government of CHRI, with which the Kremlin maintained some relations, was a [bandit] band too. It looks that the entire government of Russia had committed crime. I do not understand how it's possible to separate one Berezovsky from this and persecute him for the same actions, which were undertaken by the entire government of Russia.
Q: - Until now, there are still many unanswered questions remaining in the story of kidnapping and execution of those British engineers - the colleagues from the Granger Telecom company. It is known, that being the vice-premier of Chechnya, you had dealt with searches for hostages, and then directly participated in the transfer of their bodies through Baku to London. But, a month ago in the main administration of General Prosecutor Office of Russia in the North Caucasus, which investigates this matter, some journalists reported that soon after the death of foreign hostages, the procuratorship of Chechnya had detained a man who took a direct part in their execution, but on your letter it was compel to let him out to be free and now his tracks have been lost.
A: - A criminal case was opened on the fact of kidnapping of Britons, but not after their deaths. A man, about whom it was talked, was detained before execution of those poor fellows. In the law and security organs of the CHRI there was some basis for suspecting him in participation to this kidnapping, but to suspect him of the fact that he participated in their execution, that's absurd. A lot of time has passed; that's why I don't remember neither name nor surname of that suspect, but I accurately remember that he was from the Urus- Martan region. I cannot recall now this particular letter, but decision to let this suspect go wasn't taken by me. This was politically necessary decision, which was accepted by President Maskhadov because of Moscow and London demand. Indeed people were killed, but there were no corpses, but from us they demanded to give out the corpses, which were hidden by bandits.
In negotiations with the bandits I hadn't participate. In me, there was only practical resolution to this question: to take away the corpses, to "reunite" them with heads and to send them to relatives. They had identified them, washed them clean, dressed in suits and even performed funeral service. Moscow demanded that we would give out the bodies at the Grozny airport to the Russian side, but the Chechen government made a decision to give them out directly to London. For this our representation in Baku conducted work with the embassy of Great Britain in order to give out the bodies to the British ambassador to Azerbaijan, and that was done. Russian side was against it, but we passed without difficulty through the territory of Daghestan to its border with Azerbaijan. I think, that the Kremlin obliged to Maskhadov and it didn't hinder this.
True, today it's convenient to blame everything on us, and to be justified in this - it's not in my character. But, to assume that I undertook some measures for protecting [vygorazhivaniyu?] those scoundrels, who have brought treacherous blow to the Chechen idea [of independence] and to the authority of the nation and its government, it's simply ridiculous. During those days under my leadership an attempt to finish off immediately all bandits in the Urus-Martan region was undertaken, but for me, it wasn't given to do that. Exactly because they've beheaded those engineers, [and] we stood before the fact of starting a war - civil war in Chechnya. Criminal case was not stopped, and work on the detention of criminals was being conducted. The President every week demanded that we detain them, and I don't think that we wouldn't succeed in this, and already more had been discussed about concrete measures - help from London's side for catching those criminals, and possible, their extradition. Situation was like this: Russia has declared, that legally for us, CHRI, its part; an official aid from this side was impossible to receive, and Russian Federation itself didn't allot any means for the fight against criminality.