“In September 1999, a series of middle-of-the-night explosions shook Russian cities destroying several apartment blocks. More than 300 people died as they slept. The attacks, attributed to Chechen separatists, boosted the popularity of the hawkish would-be President Vladimir Putin. Then, a strange thing happened. A bomb was defused by the local police, and the trail of evidence led to the door of the FSB, the secret service. The FSB was forced to admit “an ill-conceived exercise”, which was remarkably similar to the earlier explosions. Ever since, a question has lingered over Mr. Putin’s presidency: Who Done It? Why was the “exercise” incident covered up? Witnesses disappeared? Inquisitive journalists intimidated? Critical TV stations closed down? And who was behind the assassinations of two members of Russian Parliament, who persisted with their own investigation?”
Excerpts from “Blowing Up Russia: Terror from Within” by Yuri Felshtinsky and Alexander Litvinenko:
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!
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.”