Litvinenko, Alexander and Felshtinsky, Yuriy

Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within.           S.P.I. Books, 2002






Originally published at:








It is a book about a tragedy, which has overtaken us all, about wasted opportunities, lost lives, and a country that is dying. It is a book for those who are capable of recognizing the reality of the past and are not afraid to influence the future.

This book attempts to demonstrate that modern Russia’s most fundamental problems do not result from the radical reforms of the liberal period of Yeltsin’s terms as president, but from the open or clandestine resistance offered to these reforms by the Russian special services. It was they who unleashed the first and second Chechen wars, in order to divert Russia away from the path of democracy and towards dictatorship, militarism, and chauvinism.

The war in Chechnya has made human life cheap in Russia. The brutal killings and the trade in slaves and hostages have thrown our country back to the days of slavery. Thousands of people who go through the war in Chechnya are forced to kill. They can never go back to civilian life.




Alexander Litvinenko was born in Voronezh in 1962. After graduating from school in 1980, he was drafted into the army and over the next twenty years, he rose through the ranks from private to lieutenant-colonel. Beginning in 1988, he served in the counterintelligence agencies of the Soviet KGB, and from 1991, in the Central Staff of the MB-FSK-FSB of Russia, specializing in counter-terrorist activities and the struggle against organized crime. For operations conducted with MUR (Moscow criminal investigation department), he was awarded the title of "MUR veteran." He saw active military service in many of the so-called "hot spots" of the former USSR and Russia, and in 1997, he was transferred to the most secret department of the Russian KGB, the Department for the Analysis of Criminal Organizations, as senior operational officer and deputy head of the Seventh section. He is a Candidate Master of Sport in the modern pentathlon.

He is reported to have fallen out with Vladimir Putin, then head of the FSB, in the late 1990s, after failing in attempts to crack down o­n corruption within the organisation. In November 1998, at a press conference in Moscow, he publicly criticized the leadership of the FSB and disclosed a number of illegal orders, which he had been given including the one to assassinate the then powerful tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who himself now lives in self-imposed exile in the UK.

In March 1999, he was arrested on trumped-up charges and imprisoned in the FSB prison at Lefortovo in Moscow. He was acquitted in November 1999, but no sooner had the acquittal been read out in court than he was arrested again by the FSB on another trumped-up criminal charge. In 2000, the criminal proceedings against him were dismissed for the second time, and Litvinenko was released after providing written assurances that he would not leave the country. A third criminal case was then instigated against him. After threats were made against his family by the FSB and the investigating officers, he left Russia illegally, which led to yet another, fourth criminal charge being brought against him. Complaining of persecution, in 2000 Mr Litvinenko sought, and was granted political asylum in the UK. From 2001 to 2006, he lived with his family in Great Britain.

However, after settling in an unnamed London suburb, the former spy continued to behave as if o­n the run, constantly changing his contact details. The Times newspaper reported that over the summer someone tried to push a pram loaded with petrol bombs at his front door. Appearing alongside high-profile opponents of President Putin, he has continued to make allegations about his former bosses. Perhaps most notably, he alleged that al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri was trained by the FSB in Dagestan in the years before 9/11.

In November 2006, Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned to death by Russian secret agents. Mr Litvinenko is thought to have been close to journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another opponent of the Kremlin who was shot dead last month, and said recently he was investigating her murder.It was after being handed documents relating to the case that he was taken ill more than two weeks ago, he said. He now appears to have fallen victim to the kind of plots which he wrote about.


Yuri Felshtinsky was born in Moscow in 1956. In 1974, he began studying history at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute. In 1978, he immigrated to the USA and continued his study of history, first at Brandeis University and later at Rutgers, where he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (History.) In 1993, he successfully defended his doctoral thesis at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian academy of sciences, and became the first citizen of a foreign state to be awarded a doctoral degree in Russia. He has compiled and edited several dozen volumes of archival documents and is the author of the following books: The Bolsheviks and the Left SR's (Paris, 1985); Towards a History of Our Isolation (London, 1988; Moscow 1991); The Failure of World Revolution (London, 1991; Moscow 1992); Big Bosses (Moscow 1999).




Chapter 1: The special services foment war in Chechnya
Chapter 2: The special services run riot
Chapter 3: Moscow detectives take on the FSB
Chapter 4: Nikolai Platonovich Patrushev (a biographical note)
Chapter 5: The FSB fiasco in Ryazan
Chapter 6: The FSB resorts to mass terror: Buinaksk, Moscow, Volgodonsk
Chapter 7: The FSB against the people
Chapter 8: The FSB sets up free-lance special operations groups
Chapter 9: The FSB organizes contract killings
Chapter 10: The special services and abductions
Chapter 11: The FSB: reform or dissolution?
The FSB in power (in place of a conclusion)




On September 22, 9:15p.m., Alexei Kartofelnikov, a driver for the Spartak soccer club who lived in the single-entrance twelve-story block at number 14/16 Novosyolov Street built more than twenty years earlier, phoned the Dashkovo-Pesochnaya office of the Oktyabrsky Region Department of the Interior (ROVD) in Ryazan and reported that ten minutes earlier, he had seen a white model five or seven Zhiguli automobile with the Moscow license plate T534 VT 77 RUS outside the entrance to his apartment block, where there was a twenty-four hour "Night and Day" shop on the ground floor. The car had driven into the yard and stopped. A man and a young woman got out, went down into the basement of the building, and after a while came back. Then the car was driven right up against the basement door, and all three of the people in it began carrying some kind of sacks inside. One of the men had a mustache and the woman was wearing a tracksuit. Then all of them got into the car and drove away.

…"I spotted the model seven Zhiguli as I was walking home from the garage," Kartofelnikov recalled, "and I noticed the license plate out of professional habit. I saw that the regional number had been masked by a piece of paper with the Ryazan serial number '62'. I ran home to phone the militia. I had to keep dialing the number for ten minutes before I got through…"

When they arrived at 9:58p.m. Moscow time, the militiamen, commanded by warrant officer Andrei Chernyshev, discovered three fifty-kilogram sugar sacks in the basement of a residential block containing seventy-seven apartments. Chernyshev, who was the first to enter the mined basement, recalled:

"At about ten, we got a warning call from the officer on duty: suspicious individuals had been seen coming out of the basement of house number 14/16 Novosyolov Street. Near the house we were met by a girl who told us about a man who had come out of the basement and driven away in a car with its license plates masked. I left one officer in front of the entrance and went down into the basement with the other. The basement in that house is deep and completely flooded with water. The only dry spot is a tiny little storeroom like a brick shed. We shined the light in, and there were several sugar sacks arranged in a stack. There was a slit in the upper sack, and we could see some kind of electronic device: wires wrapped round with insulating tape, a timer… Of course, it was all a bit of a shock for us. We ran out of the basement, I stayed behind to guard the entrance, while the guys went to evacuate the inhabitants. After about fifteen minutes, reinforcements arrived, and the chief of UVD turned up. The sacks of explosive were removed by men from the Ministry of Emergencies [MChS] in the presence of representatives of the FSB. Of course, after our bomb technicians had rendered them harmless. No one had any doubt that this was a genuine emergency situation.

One of the sacks had been slit open, and a homemade detonating device had been set inside, consisting of three batteries, an electronic watch, and a homemade detonating charge. The detonator was set for 5:30a.m. on Thursday morning. The bomb technicians from the militia engineering and technology section of the Ryazan Region UVD took just eleven minutes to disarm the bomb, under the leadership of their section head, militia Lieutenant Yury Tkachenko, and then immediately, at approximately 11p.m., they conducted a trial explosion with the mixture. There was no detonation, either because the sample was too small, or because the engineers had taken it from the upper layers of the mixture, while the main concentration of hexogene might be in the bottom of the sack. Express analysis of the substance in the sacks with the help of a gas analyzer indicated "fumes of hexogene-type explosive substance." It is important at this point to note that there could not have been any mistake. The instruments used were modern and in good condition, and the specialists who carried out the analysis were highly qualified.

The contents of the sacks did not outwardly resemble granulated sugar. All the witnesses, who discovered the suspicious sacks, later confirmed that they contained a yellow substance in the form of granules that resembled small vermicelli, which is exactly what hexogene looks like. On September 23, the press center of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia also announced that "analysis of the substance concerned indicated the presence of hexogene vapor," and that an explosive device had been disarmed. In other words, one the night preceding September 23, local experts had determined that the detonator was live, and the "sugar" was an explosive mixture. "Our initial examination indicated the presence of explosive substances… We believed there was a real danger of explosion," Lieutenant-Colonel Sergei Kabashov, head of the Oktyabrsky Region OVD, later stated.

…So the alarm was raised, and the inhabitants of a house in Ryazan were roused from their beds and evacuated into the street in whatever they happened to be wearing at the time. This is how the newspaper Trud described the scene: "In a matter of minutes, people were forced to abandon their apartments without being allowed to gather their belongings (a fact which thieves later exploited) and gather in front of the dark, empty house. Women, old men and children shuffled about in front of the entrance, reluctant to set out into the unknown. Some of them were not wearing outer clothing, or were even barefooted… They hopped from one foot to the other in the freezing wind for several hours, and the invalids who had been brought down in their wheelchairs wept and cursed the entire world."

The house was cordoned off. It was cold. The director of the local cinema, the Oktyabr, took pity on the people and let them into the hall, and she also prepared tea for everyone. The only people left in the building were several old invalids, who were in no physical condition to leave their apartments, including one old woman who was paralyzed and whose daughter stayed all night with the militia cordon expecting an explosion. This is how she recalled the event:

"Between 10 and 11p.m., militia officers went to the apartments, asking people to get outside as quickly as possible. I ran out just as I was, in my nightshirt, with only my raincoat thrown over it. Outside in the yard, I learned there was a bomb in our house. I'd left my mother behind in the flat, and she can't even get out of bed on her own. I dashed over to the militiamen in horror: 'Let me into the house, help me bring my mother out!' They wouldn't let me back in. It was half past two before they started going to each of the flats with its occupants and checking them for signs of anything suspicious. They came to me too. I showed the militiaman my sick mother and said I wouldn't go anywhere without her. He calmly wrote something down on his notepad and disappeared. And I suddenly had this realization that my mother and I were probably the only two people in a house with a bomb in it. I felt quite unbearably afraid… But then suddenly there was a ring at the door. Standing on the doorstep were two senior militia officers. They asked me sternly: 'Have you decided you want to be buried alive, then, woman?' I was so scared my legs were giving way under me, but I stood my ground, I wouldn't go without my mother. And then they suddenly took pity on me: 'All right then, stay here, your house has already been made safe.' It turned out they'd removed the detonators from the 'charge' even before they inspected the flats. Then I just dashed straight outside…"

All kinds of emergency services and managers turned up at the house. In addition, since analysis had determined the presence of hexogene, the cordon was ordered to expand the exclusion zone, in case there was an explosion. The head of the local UFSB, Major-General Alexander Sergeiev, congratulated the inhabitants of the building on being granted a second life. Hero of the hour Kartofelnikov was told that he must have been born under a lucky star (a few days later, he was presented with a valuable gift from the municipal authorities for finding the bomb - a Russian-made color television). One of the Russian telegraph agencies informed the world of his fortunate discovery as follows:

"Terrorist bombing thwarted in Ryazan: sacks containing a mixture of sugar and hexogene found bay militia in apartment house basement."

First deputy staff officer for civil defense and emergencies in the Ryazan Region, Colonel Yury Karpeiev, has informed an ITAR-TASS correspondent that the substance found in the sacks is undergoing analysis. According to the operations duty officer of the Ministry of Emergencies of the Russian Federation in Moscow, the detonating device discovered was set for 5:30 Moscow time on Thursday morning. Acting head of the UVD of the Ryazan Region, Alexei Savin, told the ITAR-TASS correspondent that the make, color, and number of the car in which the explosive was brought to the scene had been identified. According to Savin, specialists were carrying out a series of tests to determine the composition and explosion hazard posed by the mixture discovered in the sacks… First deputy mayor of the region, Vladimir Markov, said that the situation in Ryazan is calm. The inhabitants of the building, who were rapidly evacuated from their apartments immediately following the discovery of the suspected explosives, have returned to their apartments. All the neighboring houses have been checked…

At five minutes past midnight, the sacks were carried out of the basement and loaded into a fire engine. However, it was four in the morning before a decision was taken on where the explosives should be taken. The OMON, and FSB, and the local military units refused to take in the sacks. In the end, they were taken to the yard of the Central Office for Civil Defense and Emergencies of Ryazan, where they were stacked in a garage, and a guard was placed over them. The rescuers later recalled that they would have used the sugar in their tea, except that the analysis had shown the presence of hexogene.

The sacks lay at the civil defense base for several days, until they were taken away to the MVD's expert center for criminalistic analysis in Moscow. The press office of the UVD of the Ryazan Region actually announced that the sacks had been taken to Moscow on September 23. At 8:30 in the morning, the work of removing the bomb and checking the building was completed, and the residents were allowed to return to their apartments.

On the evening of September 22, 1,200 militiamen were put on alert and a so-called Intercept plan was set in motion. Several eyewitnesses were identified, sketches were produced of three suspects, and roadblocks were set up on highways in the region and in nearby localities. The witnesses' testimony was quite detailed, and there was some hope that the perpetrators would be apprehended.

The governor of the region and the municipal authorities allocated additional funds to the counter-terrorist offensive. Members of the armed forces were used to guard apartment blocks, and at night watch was organized among residents in all the buildings, while a further search was carried out of the entire residential district, especially of the apartment houses (by Friday, eighty percent of the houses in the town had been checked.) The city markets were deserted, with traders afraid to bring in their goods and customers afraid to go out shopping. According to deputy mayor of Ryazan Anatoly Baranov "Practically no one in the town slept, and not only did the residents of that house spend the night on the street, so did the entire 30,000 population of the suburb of Dashkovo-Pesochnya in which it is located." The panic response in the city grew stronger: there were rumors circulating that Ryazan had been singled out for terrorist attack because the 137th airborne assault guards regiment, which had fought in Dagestan, was stationed there. In addition, the Dyagilev military aerodrome, from which military forces had been airlifted to the Caucasus, was located close to Ryazan. The main road out of Ryazan was jammed solid because the militia were checking all cars leaving the city. However, Operation Intercept failed to produce any results, the car used by the terrorists was not found and the terrorists themselves were not arrested.

After the announcement of Operation Intercept, when the routes out of town were already closed off, the operational divisions of the Ryazan UVD and UFSB attempted to determine the precise location of the terrorists they were seeking. They had a few lucky breaks. Nadezhda Yukhanova, an employee of the Electrosvyaz company (the telephone service) recorded a suspicious call to Moscow. "Leave one at a time, there are patrols everywhere", replied the voice at the other end of the line. Yukhanova immediately reported the call to the Ryazan UFSB and it was a simple technical matter for the suspicious telephone to be monitored immediately. The operatives had no doubt that they had located the terrorists. However, difficulties arose because when the bugging technology identified the Moscow telephone number the terrorists were ringing, it turned out to be the number of one of the offices of the FSB in Moscow.

After leaving Novosyolov Street shortly after 9 p.m. on September 22, the terrorists had not risked driving straight to Moscow because a solitary car is always noticeable on a deserted highway at night and the chances of being stopped at a GAI (traffic police) post were too high. Any car stopped at night would be noted in the duty officer's journal, even if the people sitting in it were members of the FSB or other special services, and the next day when the news of the explosion was announced the militiaman would be bound to recall stopping a car with three people. And if there also happened to be reports by witnesses in Ryazan, they would pick up the car and its passengers straight away. The terrorists had to wait until the morning, especially since they couldn't leave the target area until after the explosion had taken place and their military mission had been accomplished. In the morning there would be a lot of cars on the highway. For the first few hours after the attack there would be panic. If witnesses had spotted two men and a woman in a car, the militia would be looking for three terrorists, two men and one woman. One person alone in a car could always give any militia cordon the slip.

That this was the way things really were is clear from the report of operation Intercept in the newspaper Trud: "By now the situation in Ryazan had reached red heat. Reinforced patrols of militia and cadets from the local military colleges walked the streets. All road routes out of and into the city were blocked by the patrols and sentries armed to the teeth and road traffic police. Traffic jams kilometers long had built up of cars and trucks moving to and from Moscow. They searched all the passenger cabins and goods compartments. They were looking for three terrorists, two men and a woman, whose descriptions were posted on almost every lamp-post."

Following instructions received, one of the terrorists set out towards Moscow in the car on September 23, abandoned the car in the area of Kolomna and made his way to Moscow unhindered by other means. One of the terrorists had now escaped the clutches of the Ryazan militia and taken the car with him as well. Late in the day of September 23, less than twenty-four hours later, an empty car was found by the militia on the Moscow-Ryazan highway close to Kolomna, about halfway to Moscow. It was the same car "with the papered-over number plates which was used to transport the explosive," Bludov announced. The car turned out to be registered as missing with the police. In other words, the terrorists had carried out their operation in a stolen car (a classical feature of terrorist attacks).

Two of the terrorists stayed behind in Ryazan...


Patrushev's "exercises"

On the morning of September 23 the Russian news agencies broadcast the sensational news that "a terrorist bombing had been foiled in Ryazan." From eight in the morning the television channels started broadcasting details of the failed attempt at mass murder: Every TV and radio broadcasting company in Russia carried the same story: "According to members of the law enforcement agencies of the Ryazan UVD, the white crystalline substance in the sacks is hexogene."

At 1 p.m. the TV program Vesti (News) on the state's RTR channel carried a live interview with S. Kabashov: "So provisional guidelines have been issued for the detention of an automobile matching the features which residents have described. There are no results so far." Vesti announced that "bomb specialists from the municipal militia have carried out an initial analysis and confirmed the presence of hexogene. The contents of the sacks have now been sent to the FSB laboratory in Moscow for definitive analysis. Meanwhile in Ryazan the mayor Pavel Dmitrievich Mamatov has held an extraordinary meeting with his deputies and given instructions for all basements in the city to be sealed off and for rented premises to be checked more thoroughly."

Mamatov answered questions from journalists: "Whatever agencies we might bring in today, it is only possible to implement all the measures for sealing off attics and basements, repairs, installing gratings and so on in a single week on one condition -- if we all combine our efforts." In other words, at 1 p.m. on September 23 all of Ryazan was in a state of siege. They were searching for the terrorists and their car, checking attics and basements. When Vesti went on air again at 5 p.m., it was mostly a repeat of the broadcast at 1 p.m.

At 7 p.m. Vesti went on air with its normal news coverage: "Today Russian premier Vladimir Putin spoke about the air-strikes on the airport at Grozny..."

Putin commented on the latest emergency in Ryazan: "As for the events in Ryazan, I don't think there was any kind of failure involved. If the sacks which proved to contain explosive were noticed, that means there is a positive side to it, if only in the fact that the public is reacting correctly to the events taking place in our country today. I'd like to take advantage of your question in order to thank the public of our country for this… This is absolutely the correct response. No panic, no sympathy for the bandits. This is the mood for fighting them to the very end. Until we win. And we shall win."

…As of September 23 the prime minister of Russia and Yeltsin's successor in the post of president, Vladimir Putin… sincerely believed (or at least pretended to believe) that a terrorist attack had been thwarted in Ryazan.

…Even on September 24 when he addressed the First All-Russian Congress for Combating Organized Crime Rushailo spoke about the terrorist attack that had been thwarted in Ryazan: "There had been definite improvements, such as the foiling of the attempt to blow up the apartment building in Ryazan. "

Half an hour later, at the same meeting, Patrushev announced that what happened in Ryazan were exercises, the sacks contained sugar, and the explosive device was a fake.

It is very important to note that the leaders of the Ryazan Region were not aware of the explosion planned for Ryazan (or the "exercises", as the events are referred to diplomatically by all the officials involved in them and by employees of the agencies of coercion). The governor of the region, V.N. Liubimov, announced this in an interview broadcast live on September 24, when he said: "Not even I knew about this exercise." Mamatov, the mayor of Ryazan, was frankly annoyed: 'They've used us as guinea pigs. Tested Ryazan for lice. I'm not against exercises, I served in the army myself and I took part in them, but I never saw anything like this."

The FSB department for the Ryazan Region was also not informed about the "exercises." Bludov stated that "the FSB was not informed in advance that exercises were being conducted in the city." The head of the Ryazan UFSB, Major-General A.V. Sergeiev at first stated in an interview with the local television company Oka that he knew nothing about any "exercises" being held. It was only later, in response to a question from journalists about whether he had in his possession any official document confirming that exercises were held in Ryazan, that he answered through his press secretary that he accepted as proof of the exercises the television interview given by FSB director Patrushev. One of the women living in house 14/16, Marina Severina, recalled how afterwards the local FSB went round the apartments apologizing: "Several people from the FSB came to see us, led by a colonel. They apologized. They said that they hadn't known anything either." This is one case in which we can believe the members of the FSB and accept their sincerity.

The Ryazan UFSB realized that the people of Ryazan had been "set up" and that the Public Prosecutor's Office of Russia and the public might accuse the Ryazan UFSB of planning the explosion. Shaken by the treachery of their Moscow colleagues, the Ryazan UFSB decided to provide themselves with an alibi and announced to the world that the Ryazan operation had been planned in Moscow. There could be no other explanation for the statement from the Ryazan Region UFSB which appeared shortly after Patrushev's interview about "exercises" in Ryazan. We give the text of the statement in full.

"It has become known that the planting on 9.22.99 of a dummy explosive device was part of an ongoing interregional exercise. This announcement came as a surprise to us and appeared at a moment when the department of the FSB had identified the places of residence in Ryazan of those involved in planting the explosive device and was preparing to detain them. This had been made possible due to the vigilance and assistance of many of the residents of the city of Ryazan, collaboration with the agencies of the Ministry of the Interior and the professionalism of our own staff. We thank everyone who assisted us in this work. We will continue in future to do everything possible to ensure the safety of the people of Ryazan."

This unique document provides us with answers to the most important of our questions. Firstly, the Ryazan UFSB had nothing to do with the operation to blow up the building in Ryazan. Secondly, at least two terrorists were discovered in Ryazan. Thirdly, the terrorists lived in Ryazan, if only temporarily, and evidently network or at least two secret safe apartments were uncovered. Fourthly, just at the moment when arrangements were in hand to arrest the terrorists, the order came from Moscow not to arrest them, because the terrorist attack in Ryazan was only an FSB "exercise."

On May 21, 2000, just five days before the presidential election, when the failed explosion in Ryazan had been put back on the public agenda for political reasons by the parties competing for power, the head of the investigative section of the UFSB for the Ryazan Region, lieutenant-colonel Yuri Maximov, stated as follows:

"We took all the events of that night seriously, regarding the situation as genuinely dangerous. The announcement about exercises held by the FSB of the Russian Federation came as a complete surprise to us and appeared at a moment when the department of the FSB had identified the places of residence in Ryazan of those involved in planting the dummy (as it subsequently emerged) device and was preparing to detain them."

It was thus twice confirmed in documentary form that the terrorists who had mined the building in Ryazan were employees of the FSB, that at the time of the operation they were living in Ryazan, and that the places where they lived had been identified by employees of the UFSB for the Ryazan Region. This being so, we can catch Patrushev out in an obvious lie. On September 25, in an interview with one of the television companies he stated that "those people who should in principle have been found straight away were among the residents who left the building, in which an explosive device was supposedly planted. They took part in the process of producing their own sketches, and held conversations with employees of the agencies of law enforcement."

The real facts were quite different. The terrorists scattered to different safe apartments. No sooner had the leadership of the Ryazan UFSB reported in the line of duty by phone to Patrushev in Moscow that the arrest of the terrorists was imminent than Patrushev gave the order not to arrest the terrorists and announced that the foiled terrorist attack in Ryazan was only an "exercise." One can imagine the expression on the face of the Ryazan UFSB officer concerned: most likely Major-General Sergeiev was reporting to Patrushev in person when he was ordered to let the terrorists go!

The Moscow Komsomolets (MK) newspaper managed to joke about it: "On September 24 1999 the head of the FSB Nikolai Patrushev made the sensational announcement that the attempted bombing in Ryazan was nothing of the sort. It was an exercise... The same day minister of the interior Vladimir Rushailo congratulated his men on saving the building in Ryazan from certain destruction."


No one believes…

Beyond this point our investigation runs up against the old familiar "top secret" classification. The criminal proceedings instigated by the UFSB for the Ryazan Region in connection with the discovery of an explosive substance under article 205 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (terrorism) was classified and the case materials are not available to the public. The names of the terrorists (FSB operatives) have been concealed. We don't even know if they were interrogated and what they said under interrogation.

On September 29, 1999, the newspapers Cheliabinsky Rabochy and Krasnoyarsky Rabochy, and on October 1, the Volzhskaya Kommuna of Samara carried identical articles; "We have learned from well-informed sources in the MVD of Russia that none of the MVD operatives and their colleagues in the UFSB of Ryazan believes in any "training" involving the planting of explosive in the town... In the opinion of highly placed employees of the MVD of Russia, the apartment building in Ryazan actually was mined by persons unknown using genuine explosive and the same detonators as in Moscow... This theory is indirectly confirmed by the fact that the criminal proceedings under the article on terrorism have still not been closed. Furthermore, the results of the original analysis of the contents of the sacks, carried out at the first stage by local MVD experts, were confiscated by FSB personnel who arrived from Moscow and immediately declared secret. Militiamen, who have been in contact with their colleagues in criminalistics, who carried out the first investigation of the sacks, continue to claim that they really did contain hexogene and there is no possibility of any error."

And of course, the FSB itself could not be unanimous in its attitude to Patrushev's operation. After the fiasco in Ryazan, even his own subordinates were prepared to criticize the head of the FSB (and Patrushev was prepared to tolerate this criticism abjectly). For instance, the press secretary (the head of the public relations center or TsOS) of the UFSB for Moscow and the Moscow Region Sergei Bogdanov called the "exercise" in Ryazan "crude and poorly planned work" (if they were caught, their work must have been crude). The head of the UFSB for the Yaroslavl Region major-general A.A. Kotelnikov replied as follows to a question about the "exercises": "I have my own point of view concerning the Ryazan exercises, but I would not wish to comment on the actions of my colleagues" (as if there any way that he could!).

In conclusion we would like to quote the opinion expressed by former Public Prosecutor General of Russia Yuri Skuratov in an interview with the Russian-language Paris newspaper Russkaya Mysl for October 29 1999: "I was very much disturbed and alarmed by what happened in Ryazan. In this case, it certainly is possible to construct a scenario with the special services themselves involved in planning an explosion in Ryazan, and making very clumsy excuses when they were caught out. I am amazed that the public prosecutor's office never did get to the bottom of the business. That's its job."


Analytical Reference

For a number of formal reasons, the planting of the sacks in the apartment building in Ryazan could not have been an exercise. When a training exercise is held there has to be a previously determined plan to work to. The plan must specify the manager of the exercise, his deputy, the observers and the parties being tested (the inhabitants of Ryazan, the employees of the UFSB for the Ryazan Region, and so on). The plan must list the items which are to be checked. The plan must have a so-called "plot", a specific scenario for the performance to be given. In the Ryazan incident, the scenario was the planting of sacks of sugar in the basement of an apartment building. The plan must define the material requirements of the exercise: vehicles, money (for instance, to buy three fifty-kilogram sacks of sugar), food (if a large number of people are taking part in the exercise), weapons, communications equipment, coding systems (code tables), etc.

After all this has been included the plan is approved by senior command and only then, on the basis of the approved plan, is a written instruction (it must be written) issued for the exercise to be held. Immediately before the start of the exercise the individual who approved the plan for the exercise and issued the order for it to be held reports that it is beginning. After the completion of the exercise, he reports that it is over. Then a compulsory report is drawn up on the results of the exercise, identifying the positive outcomes and the shortcomings, individuals who have distinguished themselves are praised and miscreants are identified. This same order lists the material resources consumed or destroyed in the course of the exercise (in the case of the Ryazan incident, at least three sacks of sugar and a cartridge for the detonator).

Exercises cannot be held without observers, who objectively assess the results of an exercise and then draw up reports on its successes and failures, apportion praise and blame and draw conclusions. There were no observers in Ryazan.

It is compulsory for the head of the local UFSB to be notified of a planned exercise. He is directly subordinate to the director of the FSB and no one has the right, for instance, to check on Sergeiev's performance without Patrushev's permission. Likewise, no one has the right to check up on Sergeiev's subordinates, the employees of the Ryazan UFSB, without Sergeiev's permission. This means that Patrushev and Sergeiev must already have known on September 22 about any "exercises" which were due to be conducted. But Patrushev did not issue a statement to that effect until September 24, and Sergeiev has never issued one, because he knew nothing at all about the "exercises."

Under the terms of its statute, the FSB is only entitled to check on itself. It is not allowed to check the performance of other organizations or of private individuals. If the FSB carries out a check on the MVD (the Ryazan militia, for instance), it has to be a joint exercise with the MVD, and the appropriate officials of the MVD in the center and the provinces have to be notified. If the exercise affects the civilian population (as was the case in Ryazan), then the civil defense service and the MChS are also involved. In all cases a joint plan of the exercise has to be drawn up and signed by the heads of all the relevant departments. The plan is approved by the individual who coordinates all the various agencies of coercion which are involved in the exercise.

Exercises may be made as close as possible to real situations, such as exercises involving live shelling. However, it is absolutely forbidden to conduct exercises in which people might be hurt or which might pose a threat of damage to the environment. There is a specific prohibition on holding exercises which involve members of the armed forces and military units on active service or ships standing at battle station. If a frontier guard is on duty at his post it is forbidden to imitate a breach of the frontier in order to test his vigilance. If a facility is under guard, it is forbidden to attack that facility as part of an exercise.

Active service differs from an exercise in that during periods of duty military goals are pursued with the use of live weapons . Each branch of the forces (and the militia) has an active service charter which lays everything out in detail. On September 22-23 1999, the militia patrols on the streets of Ryazan were on active service, carrying weapons and special equipment, which they were entitled to use to detain FSB operatives planting mysterious sacks in the basement of an apartment building. Following the series of explosions in Ryazan the entire militia force of the city was operating in an intensive regime in response to the real threat of terrorist attacks, which meant that unfortunate FSB operatives involved in unannounced exercises could quite simply have been shot.

That brings us to the initiation of criminal proceedings under article 205, which means that an investigator had issued a warrant for the location and arrest of the suspects and that they could have been killed in the process of arrest. The basis for the instigation of criminal proceedings is clearly defined in the Criminal Procedural Code of the Russian Federation, which does not contain any points concerning the instigation of criminal proceedings during exercises or in connection with exercises. The unfounded or illegal instigation of criminal proceedings is in itself a criminal offense, as is their illegal termination.

Trying to put pressure on the investigation and declaring a criminal case classified were illegal acts. According to Article 7 of the law of the Russian Federation, "On state secrecy," adopted on July 21, 1993, "information... concerning emergencies and catastrophes which threaten the safety and health of members of the public and their consequences; ... concerning instances of the violation of human and civil rights and freedoms; ... concerning instances of the violation of legality by the agencies of state power and their officials ... shall not be declared a matter of state secrecy and classified as secret." The same law goes on to state: "officials who have taken a decision to classify as secret the information listed or to include it for this purpose in media which contain information that constitutes a matter of state secrecy, shall be subject to criminal, administrative or disciplinary sanction in accordance with the material and moral harm inflicted upon society, the state, and the public. Members of the public shall be entitled to appeal such decisions to a court of law."

The detonating device is a very important formal point. Instructions forbid the use of a live detonating device for exercises involving civilian structures and the civilian population. If the detonating device was not live, then no criminal case could have been brought under article 205 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (terrorism), the case would have been based on the discovery of the explosive and turned over to the MVD, not the FSB. In the final analysis, if we are talking about an "exercise", then the vigilance of the people of Ryazan was checked to see how promptly they would discover sacks containing explosive, not what they would do with a detonating device.

It is difficult for the uninitiated to appreciate the significance of the innocent phrase: "the initiation of criminal proceedings under article 205." Most importantly of all, it means that the investigation will not be conducted by the MVD, but by the FSB, since terrorist activity falls into the FSB's area of investigative competence. The FSB has more than enough cases to deal with and it won't take on any unnecessary ones. In order to take on a case, it has to have very cogent reasons indeed (in this case the cogent reasons were provided by the results of the analysis). A crime concerning which criminal proceedings have been initiated is reported within twenty-four hours to the FSB of Russia duty… Every morning the duty officer submits a report on all messages received to the director of the FSB himself. If something serious is going on, such as the foiling of a terrorist attack in Ryazan, the duty officer is entitled to phone the director of the FSB at home, even at night. Therefore Patrushev knew about the discovery of sacks with explosives in the Ryazan basement no later than at 7am on September 23, more than 24 hours before the appearance of the "exercises" version.

An exercise could not legally have been conducted using a stolen car. According to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation the theft of an automobile is a crime, and a person who has committed such a crime bears criminal responsibility. Under the terms of the law on the FSB, the service's operatives have no right to commit a crime even when in pursuit of military objectives. Only the FSB's own vehicles are used in operational exercises involving agents (including operational passenger automobiles, of which the FSB has two full parking lots for its central administration alone). If one of these cars is stopped by the GAI, for instance, for speeding on the Moscow-Ryazan highway, or detained by the Ryazan militia because paper has been pasted over the Moscow number-plate, obscuring it in a suspicious manner, the car can immediately be identified as one that is specially registered. Any militiaman will recognize this as indicating that the car is one of the operational vehicles belonging to the agencies of law enforcement or the special services.

Exercises would have been conducted using operational vehicles. However, the FSB could not use operational vehicles to commit an act of terrorism. The car might be noticed (as it was) and identified (as it was). It would look really bad if terrorists blew up a building in Ryazan using a car registered to the FSB transport fleet, but if terrorists blew up the building using a stolen car that would only be normal and natural. On the other hand, if FSB operatives driving in a stolen car by day (not by night) were stopped for a routine check or for speeding, they would simply present their official identity cards or "cover documents" and after that no militiaman would bother to check the documents for the car, so he would never know it was wanted by the militia.

The car in which the terrorists arrived was the only clue left after the attempt to blow up the apartment building, the beginning of the only trail that might lead back to the perpetrators. The car is the weakest link in the planning and implementation of any act of terrorism. It was only possible to blow up the building in Ryazan if a stolen car was used.


Unsweetened sugar

The three sacks of sugar bothered everybody. But if it was just plain ordinary sugar, why was it sent off to Moscow for analysis? And more importantly, why did the laboratory accept it for analysis? Not just one laboratory, but two in different state departments (the MVD and the FSB). And why was an additional analysis carried out later? Surely it should have been possible to recognize sugar the first time around? And why did it all take several months? It only made sense for Patrushev to have the sugar brought to Moscow for analysis if he wanted to take the material evidence away from his colleagues in Ryazan, and only if the sacks did contain explosive.

In the meantime, the FSB press office issued a statement saying that in order for the contents of the sacks from Ryazan to be checked they were taken to an artillery range, where attempts were made to explode them. The detonation failed because it was ordinary sugar, the FSB reported triumphantly. "One wonders what sort of idiot would try to explode three sacks of ordinary sugar at an artillery range," the newspaper Versiya commented ironically. Why, indeed, did the FSB send the sacks to the artillery range if it knew that "exercises" were being conducted in Ryazan and the sacks contained sugar bought at the local bazaar by Vympel operatives?

Then other sacks which did contain hexogene were discovered not far from Ryazan. There were a lot of them and there was just a hint of a connection with the GRU. In the military depot of the 137th Ryazan regiment of the VDV, located on the territory of a special base for training intelligence and sabotage units close to Ryazan, hexogene was stored, packed in fifty-kilogram sugar sacks like those discovered on Novosyolov Street. In the fall of 1999, airborne assault forces (military unit 59236) private Alexei Pinyaev and his fellow soldiers from Moscow were assigned to this very regiment. While they were guarding "a storehouse with weapons and ammunition" Pinyaev and a friend went inside, most probably out of simple curiosity, and saw sacks with the word "Sugar" on them.

The two paratroopers cut a hole in one of the sacks with a bayonet and tipped some of the state's sugar into a plastic bag. Unfortunately the tea made with the stolen sugar had a strange taste and wasn't sweet at all. The frightened soldiers took their bag to their platoon commander. He suspected something wasn't right, since everyone was talking about the story of the explosions, and he decided to have the "sugar" checked out by an explosives specialist. The substance proved to be hexogene. The officer reported to his superiors. Members of the FSB from Moscow and Tula (where an airborne assault division was stationed, just like in Ryazan) descended on the unit. The regimental special services were excluded from the investigation. The paratroopers who had discovered the hexogene were interrogated "for revealing a state secret." "You guys can't even imagine what serious business you've got tangled up in," one officer told them. The press was informed that there was no soldier in the unit with the name of Pinyaev and that information about sacks containing hexogene being found in the military depot had simply been invented by Pavel Voloshin, a journalist from Novaya Gazeta (New Newspaper). The matter of the explosive was successfully hushed up and Pinyaev's commander and fellow soldiers were sent off to serve in Chechnya.

For Pinyaev himself they devised a more painful punishment. First he was forced to retract what he had said (it's not too hard to imagine the kind of pressure the FSB could bring to bear on him). Then the head of the Investigative Department of the FSB announced that "the soldier will be questioned in the course of the criminal proceedings initiated against him." A female employee of TsOS FSB summed it all up: "The kid's had it..." In March 2000 criminal proceedings were initiated against Pinyaev for the theft of army property from a military warehouse containing ammunition... the theft of a bagful of sugar! One must at least grant the FSB a sense of humor. But even so it's hard to understand why the Investigative Department of the FSB of Russia should have been concerned with the petty theft of food products.

According to the engineers in Ryazan, explosives are not packed, stored or transported in fifty-kilogram sacks, it's just too dangerous. Five hundred grams of mixture is sufficient to blow up a small building. Fifty-kilogram sacks disguised as sugar could only be required for acts of terrorism. Evidently this was the warehouse which provided the three sacks, which were later planted under the loadbearing support of the building in Ryazan. The instruments of the Ryazan experts had not lied.

There was a sequel to the story of the 137th regiment of the VDV. In March 2000, just before the election, the paratroop regiment sued Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper which had published the interview with Pinyaev. The writ, which dealt with "the protection of honor, dignity and business reputation" was submitted to the Basmansky Intermunicipal Court by the regimental command. The commander himself, Oleg Churilov, declared that the article in question had insulted the honor not only of the regiment, but of the entire Russian army, since in September 1999, there had not been any such private in the regiment. "And it is not true that a soldier can gain entry to a warehouse where weapons and explosives are stored, because he has no right to enter it while he is on guard duty."

So Pinyaev did not exist, but he was still handed over for trial. The sacks contained sugar, but "a state secret had been breached." And the 137th regiment had not taken Novaya Gazeta to court over the article about hexogene, but because a private on guard duty has no right to enter the warehouse he is guarding and any claims to the contrary were an insult to the Russian army.