Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Conversation - X


How did they react when you told them you had been granted political asylum in England?

“They nodded understandingly, but that didn’t mean they were automatically bound to test for toxins. Why should they suppose that the patient had been poisoned by someone? At some point we ceased to understand why, if the doctors couldn’t find a complete explanation, they didn’t carry out some additional tests. And we turned to a toxicology specialist in America who wanted to take a look at the results of the blood tests. But all this took time - and the process was taking no time at all… He started to have an inflammation of the larynx, at first he complained of a sore throat. I had a look at his throat - and it wasn’t an ordinary inflammation, the kind you get with angina. I told the medical staff, and they said - well, it’s the antibiotics, they kill off all the healthy flora… When I came to see him on the Sunday, he could already hardly swallow or speak. I’d brought him some tea in a thermos - he couldn’t drink it, but it was important that it was there, because he believed he was getting a little better and would be able to drink it. It was a constant, terrifying struggle for life. Because he believed he was getting over it.

“On the Sunday they gave him some sort of throat medication for removing the process of inflammation after taking antibiotics. I said: ‘Will that be enough?’ By then he was already on a feeding tube, he couldn’t eat anything. On the Monday - this was already the second week now - he was no longer able to talk at all. And when he simply couldn’t move his tongue at all, that was so terrible that I just couldn’t control myself, I ran out to reception and started to yell: ‘What are you doing? When I left yesterday my husband could at least speak!’ At that moment all the doctors came running, they started to explain to me that it might a side effect of the antibiotic, though one of the indications didn’t fit, and it might be the wrong treatment. And then they said: ‘You know, we’ll have to test for hepatitis and Aids.’ They said that in cases of that illness the organism could react in a completely unpredictable way. Their approach was a traditional one, they went by the textbooks, and there was no one who could have kept an eye on the situation from the side. Of course the tests and analyses yielded nothing. When they left that day… My poor Sasha - this was horrible, it was very dreadful - when I passed my hand along his hair, the hair remained on my hand, or more precisely, on the glove, because all along they’d made us wear gloves and aprons so we wouldn’t get infected, if it was an infection. I stroked his head again - and this time it wasn’t just a hair or two, but whole strands. I felt really ill. Then I looked at his hospital pyjamas, at the pillow - there was hair everywhere. And then I started to say - why is his hair falling out? And again they weren’t able to give me an explanation. It might be a result of his weakened immunity. A day later I had my first meeting with the haematology specialist who was in charge of the cancer patients’ ward. He was the first person to tell me: ‘You know, he looks like a cancer patient after chemotherapy.’ And suddenly he said to me: ‘On the twelfth day the hair starts to fall out.’ I said it was twelve days since the day his vomiting had begun. Only then did they start to test his blood for the presence of toxins.’”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V
Conversation - VI
Conversation - VII
Conversation - VIII
Conversation - IX

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Conversation - IX

Natalya Mozgovaya: Conversation with Marina Litvinenko - 2

[my tr.]

On the evening of November 1, Litvinenko began to feel unwell

“When the vomiting started that evening, it seemed strange to me, because we’d eaten supper together. But I supposed it might be some sort of infection. When we vomited a second time, I made a manganese solution, we washed out his stomach - but his spasms started again. And when it happened a third time, he said to me: ‘Marina,you have to get up at six to take Tolya to school - I’ll sleep in the other room, so as not to disturb you.’ At 2 am I fell asleep - and at six I looked in to see how he was and saw he was still awake. He said to me: ‘This is so strange: when we were studying at the military academy we read about symptoms like these - like the ones after a gas attack.’ I said: ‘Sasha, what are you saying?’ He replied: ‘Well, I’ve obviously been poisoned.’

“He had a feeling it was poisoning right from the very start, because of the intensity of the vomiting, but he tried not to let himself get hung up on what were after all only guesses. Perhaps it was a defensive reaction - after all, it’s a terrible thing to believe that someone has poisoned you. And when there is even the slightest chance of believing that it’s really some other illness that’s involved - you jump at it. Though in the course of two days he lost nearly all his strength. He said: ‘Marina, I’ve never felt so awful in my whole life.’ On the second day he said: ‘I can’t go on any more.’

“The sensation he had was simply of everything being turned topsy-turvy, he couldn’t get enough air, he kept asking for the window to be opened, though his body temperature was very low. Next day I brought him some medicine to restore the balance in his stomach - I’d decided that some kind of irritation had set in because of the vomiting, and his stomach wouldn’t even accept water. I called a Russian doctor, and he promised to visit us next day, but at night Sasha was again very poorly. He said: ‘Marina, I can’t take any more of this, call an ambulance.’ We dialled 999, that’s the number for the ambulance, fire or police services. The ambulance arrived at two in the morning. At the hospital they said: ‘It looks like an intestinal infection, what are you giving him?’ I said that I was giving him water. They replied: ‘Well, go on doing that. We can take him into hospital, but they’ll do the same thing there.’ They checked his temperature - it was about 35. I have no medical training, but it seemed to me that in infections the temperature should rise. In fact, there was no normal explanation for any of what was happening. So for that reason I don’t blame anyone, though I did think at first: what if they’d done this earlier? What if they’d found the toxin earlier? Later on they said he hadn’t had a chance right from the outset. Sasha was still complaining of abdominal pain - but they said it was caused by the spasms - that his stomach was contracting and the pain was coming from the over-exertion. And they sent him home. But from the very first day he didn’t have a single day without pain, except the last day, when he was already unconscious, connected to the apparatus and feeling nothing.

“The next day, when this Russian doctor arrived, it still didn’t make any sense. When the doctor touched his stomach, Sasha said it was very painful. The doctor said: ‘Well, it looks as though there’s been an infection, and now a process of inflammation has set in, this no longer something you can look after at home, take him to the hospital.’ When they finally arrived, and Sasha tried to get up - it was terrible, what could happen to someone who only had a short time left to live. He felt so dreadful that he simply couldn’t walk. At first he was very weak, exhausted by the vomiting. In the first week he lost eight kilograms. Then he just turned yellow - and when I asked why he was so yellow - again no one could give me any explanation. When they discovered a bacterium in his stomach which they thought the infection might have caused, no one could explain how it had been activated so suddenly, as it normally appears after a course of antibiotics. So what had been wrong with him initially? And again, it was a bacterium that causes diarrhea, not vomiting. In other words, they found explanations, but the explanations were never complete. Then they said it was possible that the antibiotic they’d given him had produced some side effect, because his blood test showed a sharp reduction in his immunity.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V
Conversation - VI
Conversation - VII
Conversation - VIII

Monday, January 29, 2007

Elie Wiesel on Chechnya

From the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS), which on January 23 this year was closed down following a ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court.


Press-release 2029 from January 18, 2007

Report from New York

Nobel Peace Prize Elie Wiesel laureate has sent his letter to President Putin with expressions of concerns about the possible liquidation of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

On 17 January 2007 the Russian ambassador in the USA received a letter by Elie Wiesel - a Peace Prize Nobel Laureate - that is addressed to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin. The copy of the letter was also sent to the US ambassador in Russia. The Russian-Chechen Information Agency learnt about it from David Phillps, the executive director of the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity.

Professor Wiesel expresses his grave concern about the growth of the authoritarian tendencies in Russia in light of the possible liquidation of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, the murder of Anna Politkovskaya and the deteriorating situation in Chechnya.

Elie Wiesel has survived the Holocaust. Being a Jewish boy from Transylvania, Elie Wiesel was taken to the Auschwitz concentration camp and then to Buchenwald by Nazis in 1944. “Night” – the book of Elie Wiesel’s memories - is one of the most piercing evidence of the nightmare millions of prisoners of the Nazi death camps were subjected. Elie Wiesel is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction. President Carter appointed him the chairperson of the presidential commission on Holocaust in 1978. He established the USA Memorial Holocaust Council in 1980 and became its founding chair. Elie Wiesel devoted his life to protection of the defenseless. He is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor inthe Humanities and University Professor at Boston University. He has been internationally acclaimed for his activities. Wiesel has been awarded by the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the USA Congressional Gold Medal, and the French Legion of Honour. He became the laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. Elie Wiesel stated in his Nobel speech, “I have tried to keep memory alive…I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices…How naive we were thinking that the world did know and remained silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe”.

The editor-in-chief Stanislav Dmitrievsky

The editor of this issue Oksana Chelysheva

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Conversation - VIII


Did the book change anything in Russia’s attitude towards your husband?

“It certainly did. If you look at what happened to the people who took part in its writing, in the gathering of the material - they’re not around any more, some have been killed, one person died in unexplained circumstances, another - in prison. But I was glad that Sasha was writing - in addition to the books, he wrote many articles, and he didn’t hide, didn’t disguise himself, he always signed them with his own name. I even used to tell him that it had probably been worthwhile leaving Russia, so he could discover himself in a new capacity. Yes, he was a good operative, but he had this kind of social circle there, they were all a bit abnormal… It was simply that in their system there wasn’t any room for people who were different. But here [in London] completely different people appeared. One of those people was Vladimir Bukovsky. A dissident and a former FSB man - those would seem to be incompatible concepts, but I can hardly remember an evening when they didn’t talk on the telephone. Sasha was like a child who had to learn to understand everything all over again, and I am so grateful to Volodya for always being open for us. I saw this regeneration, this rethinking in Sasha. And their friendship with Akhmed Zakayev… He would say: ‘Marina, just think, there will come a moment when the Russians will have to start talks with the Chechens; proper talks - and they won’t be able to find a single Russian person whom the Chechens will trust. But they’ll trust me.’”

Which Chechens?

“It’s clear that the Chechens who are now in charge are the ones who are advantageous to Russia, but among those who have dispersed around the world, Zakayev as before has very great authority - for the Chechnya which they really consider theirs, not the one in which portraits of Putin are hung up - the man who is up to his elbows in their blood.”

Did he sense any danger during the last months?

“The first signal was in July, when Russia said it will use force where it considers it necessary, and against whom it considers it necessary. I asked Sasha why he thought this was serious. He said, it means they will kill those whom they consider a danger to them, those who criticize them. It was just then that Blair went to the G8 meeting in St Petersburg, and Bukovsky and Gordievsky published the open letter in the British newspaper saying that no one should go, and that Putin should not be allowed to head the G8 for a whole year. And nevertheless the G8 summit took place - well, it means that gas and oil have more value than human life, and nothing can stop them.

When Anya Politkovskaya was murdered, that was the second very serious signal. I knew her a little bit, and Sasha was very close to her. He was very concerned, was always telling her: “Anya, come to Britain”, even tried to give her some instructions about self-defence - what to do when you enter a doorway. He herself was aware of the danger, he often talked about it. When he persuaded her to leave Russia, she said: “All these people - if I leave, who will they go to complain to?” Like Sasha, she understood that if she didn’t do it, then who would? Sasha believed she was murdered because she was a living witness of the crimes that had been committed in Chechnya. For him this was a very fundamental question - to understand who had done it, and why. Of course, he couldn’t a proper investigation, since he was in London. But he had some contacts, some understanding of the situation, and he clearly did something for that.

After Anya’s death he again started thinking about the existence of that hit list, he would say: I’m on that list, Berezovsky is on that list, and Zakayev, too…’ But even so, he spent more time thinking about Zakayev and Berezovsky, about the best way to guard Akhmed’s house… Even more so after we got British citizenship - he was so happy, it this seemed to him like a guarantee of his personal safety. He said: ‘They can’t kill a British subject on British soil.’ And he was wrong.”

You weren’t afraid that at some point the British would say: “We’re fed up with these Russian quarrels of yours, and now there’s radiation into the bargain”?

“That is a very serious point and we did have such fears, but it wasn’t seen as a ‘Russian’ quarrel at all. The British took it very seriously.

Sasha loved England very much, he had a British flag on all his denim jackets, it was almost comical… There were British flags hung up throughout the entire house. He was really very proud of it and very grateful. When he was in the hospital, we got so many letters of support - from ordinary British people whom we didn’t know at all. And the parents of the children at the school where our son is a pupil. After Sasha’s death, on 4 December, when we celebrated Sasha’s birthday with his father at a restaurant, we received the present of a portrait of him - it was standing on the table. A person we didn’t know approached, and he said: 'If you are that family - please accept my deepest condolences - we are with you.'"

(End of Part I)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V
Conversation - VI
Conversation - VII

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Conversation - VII


Did your husband have his papers with him?

“No, a passport had been made for him. We’d landed in London, and 15 minutes later Sasha approached a policeman and told him that he wanted to apply for political asylum. Alik [Goldfarb] suffered very badly as a result of this - for several months he was persona non grata for having helped illegal immigrants. We felt so embarrassed in his presence. Even now when he flies to America, he has to answer supplementary questions at passport control - there must be a mark next to his name… “

“On November 1 2000 our new life in England began. We had to wait until May for our case to be decided, and when the decision to give Sasha and his family political asylum came through, that brought some stability, for before that there were constant attempts to extradite him, and he kept being called in for questioning. At the [Russian] embassy they knew where we lived in London. Not that that we were in hiding - but when mother came to visit me for the first time, on her return home she was held for five hours at the customs in Sheremetevo Airport, they subjected her to a humiliating search, undressed her completely, trying to find something, mocked her for five hours. And when they found a piece of paper with our address on it in her purse, they were so happy. Then people were sent from the embassy to that address to serve us with a court summons.

“But, no matter how strange it may seem, we felt very happy in England right from the outset. I personally never felt I was in danger, although Sasha would sometimes tell me not to let Tolya go out on his own. It wasn’t any kind of harsh punishment. He had no desire to change his appearance or keep a bodyguard. Sasha always used to say how safe he felt in London, though he realized he had not been pardoned, and that they would use any chance to try to get hold of him. He thought they wouldn’t dare to eliminate him in London, though he did see himself as a target for them. He was more worried for the safety of Berezovsky and Zakayev.”

What did you live on?

“Initially, Sasha got a grant for the book (Blowing Up Russia, N.M.). He was no businessman. He would say: ‘Marina, what sort of businessman am I? I’m an operative. I can create a security agency,’ - that was what he was trying to do in the last two years of his life. As for me, until I knew English I stayed at home. It’s only in the last year that I’ve started to give lessons to children and adults. But of course, it was Sasha who took care of the basic part of the family budget. He was very punctilious about things related to providing for his family. He was always trying to think ahead, to make sure he had work so there would be a guarantee of a year or two.”

Was he financially dependent on Berezovsky?

“He made a specific point of trying to find some sort of independent sources of income. So they remained great friends, and no one could ever understand that friendship of theirs.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V
Conversation - VI

A.E. Opperput

Opperput’s real name was Pavel Ivanovich Selyaninov and he was to prove himself one of the Cheka’s most successful agents provocateurs. His unusual name should itself have aroused some suspicion at a time [the early 1920s] when the Soviet regime was introducing so many abbreviations into the Russian language. “Opperput” looks suspiciously like an abbreviated combination of Operatsiya (Operation) and Putat’ (Confuse): “Operation Confuse”.

from: Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story (1990)

Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya 10 years ago

Via Prague Watchdog [my tr]:

Aslan Maskhadov was elected President of Chechnya 10 years ago

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA - On January 27 1997 elections to the post of President were held in Chechnya. A convincing victory in them was gained by Aslan Maskhadov, the former chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria (ChRI).

The presidential elections in Chechnya took place after the end of the so-called “First Chechen War”, which began in the autumn of 1994. The first military campaign in the republic, called a “restoration of constitutional order”, ended in August 1996 with the signing in Khasavyurt of agreements between Aslan Maskhadov, then still the representative of Ichkeria, and the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Alexander Lebed.

In January 1997 free democratic presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Chechnya under the aegis of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe). The elections were conducted on the basis of the Chechen constitution adopted in March 1992, according to which the Chechen Republic was an independent democratic state.

Representatives of more than 20 countries, as well as the United Nations and the OSCE, attended the elections as observers. Many of the foreign representatives said that they had never encountered such a high turn-out of voters in elections anywhere.

“I remember that day as if it were today”, a Grozny resident who worked in one of the electoral commissions told PW’s correspondent in a recent interview.

“Hundreds of people gathered near the polling stations from early morning onwards. Many did not know how to vote, and so the republic’s central election commission had to extend the period of voting for an extra two hours. I have never again encountered the universal enthusiasm, the unanimity, the agreement and the almost festive mood that showed itself in people on that day. It was a national holiday. And the elections were possibly among the most open and democratic in the whole of history. Their results were recognized both by the international observers and by Moscow. One recalls that even the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, congratulated Aslan Maskhadov on his victory in the elections.”

Aslan Maskhadov gained a convincing victory in the elections, obtaining the support of more than 60 percent of the voters. The runner-up was the well-known field commander Shamil Basayev, for whom 23 percent of citizens voted, and third place was taken by Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, who had fulfilled the responsibilities of President after the death of Dzhokhar Dudayev.

In Moscow during May of the same year Aslan Maskhadov and Boris Yeltsin signed an “Agreement on Peace and Principles Governing Relations Between the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and the Russian Federation”. One of the points of this document stated that the two sides rejected the use of armed force in the resolution of any disputed questions. In the autumn of 1999 Russia began a “counter-terrorist operation” in Chechnya.

In March 2005 Aslan Maskhadov was killed as a result of a special operation carried out by members of the Russian special services in the village of Tolstoy-Yurt, Groznensky district. According to one unconfirmed report, the Chechen President was deliberately killed after being lured into talks with the Russian side which were to take place with the mediation of a number of foreign countries.

Translated by David McDuff.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Conversation - VI


“Next day Sasha was immediately put under surveillance, and a car would constantly follow his. This led to strange episodes, because whenever we went for a long drive - and after all, Sasha knew all these guys - he’d tell them he was going to this place or that, so that the poor fellows wouldn’t have to scour the city looking for him. When we bought a roast chicken, we’d buy two, because we realized the guys were cold and hungry, it was winter, and all this was pure nonsense. The officers were going their job, but they were aware of what they were doing. They may have felt ashamed and embarrassed, but they were being forced to do it. Then the surveillance was removed - and they walked over to us and said: ‘Today is the last day, so have a good Christmas.’ Well, our phone was tapped, obviously, and there were specific restrictions on movement - if we went anywhere, we had to report it.

"But in the summer it was suddenly decided that the trial would be held not in Moscow, but in Naro-Fominsk [about 70 km southwest of Moscow, tr.]. And then Sasha said this wasn’t right - he was afraid that down there they would be able to do anything they liked: there would be no journalists present, there would be no monitoring. He started to be really apprehensive. Just at that time he began to receive hints that the responsibility for his misdeeds would be borne not only by him, but also by his. One of the cops dropped him a hint about how they punished those who went against the system. No one was willing to see that he hadn’t gone against the system, but had rather made an open attempt to clean it up. They said: ‘You had no right to wash that dirty linen in public.’ And when Sasha realized that this could also have a serious impact on us, his wife and child, he began to consider leaving the country.

“He didn’t share his plans with me, and so right until the last moment I didn’t believe that I was leaving Russia forever. First he went away on his own - he said he was going to Nalchik [in southern Russia, tr.] to see his father, to get help with selling the apartment. Then through a friend he told me to buy a mobile phone, so that he could communicate with me. Then he asked me to book a package holiday to any country, and to tell no one that we were going away. I booked a two week tour to Spain, and told my friends I was ill. Apart from mother, no one knew about our departure. Sasha was still suffering so much - we were already sitting in the plane, and he kept asking: 'Marina, are you on the plane now?' He was very afraid that they wouldn’t let us out of the country.

“My son and I were alone in Spain, and I really did fall ill. We had three days left, and I was getting ready to go home. And then Sasha said: ‘We probably won’t go home.’ But I didn’t understand: how could it be that we wouldn’t go home? I couldn’t do that. He said: ‘If you go to Russia, I’ll follow you. But if I go back, they will put me in prison again, and they may kill me.’ And again I decided to I would stay with Sasha. We agreed to meet in Turkey, didn’t see each other for almost a month. He was really in a bad state, had lost weight. We met in Antalya, the road back home was already cut off. On Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky]’s request, in Turkey we met Alik Goldfarb, he helped us to find our feet. The first discussion was about obtaining asylum in the USA. We went to the American embassy, but they said: ‘We’re very sorry, but there are elections just now, and we can’t take this responsbilitity.’ It would take a long wait to get an ordinary visa, and Turkey might give us away at any moment; so the decision was taken to travel further. And we went to London -therefore was accepted the solution to go further. And we went to London - there we didn’t need a visa , and it was possible to get a connecting flight from Istanbul to Moscow via London.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV
Conversation - V

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Iran Receives Russian Missiles

Via AP:
TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian officials said Wednesday that they have taken delivery of advanced Russian air defense missile systems — weapons intended, according to one Russian news agency, to defend Tehran’s major nuclear facilities.

Announcement of the delivery of the Tor-M1 mobile missile launchers came as Iran launched three days of military maneuvers, its first since the U.N. Security Council approved sanctions against Iran on Dec. 23.

“We have had constructive defense transactions with Russia and we purchased Tor-M1 missiles that were recently delivered to us,” the official Web site of Iranian state television quoted Minister of Defense Mostafa Mohammad Najjar as saying.

See also: Iran Conducts Missile War Games

Conversation - V


“When the case was brought to court, the first judge granted Sasha bail. That was the second shock for Sasha - even more of a shock than the arrest itself. His lawyer arrived, said: ‘Here are the bail papers from the judge, you can go home now.’ But at the prison they started to say that the bail papers should not be brought by a lawyer, but officially from the law court, so then there was a second delay, a third. And Sasha was already sitting there with his belongings: all he had to do was get through the door, and he would be free, we were out there waiting for him. He’d already handed in all the things from his cell. Then they said: ‘We can’t let him out, there’s been a fax from the prosecutor’s office.’ We sat there from 10am until midnight, and they didn’t let him out. They acted completely against the law. Later it came to light that he’d been kept in prison unlawfully for three or four weeks. That’s what it’s like trying to obtain justice in a Russian law court.

“The trial itself was unspeakable. The witnesses and materials were terrible, the prosecutor was constantly ill. When the lawyers told him that the outcome of the case was obvious, he said without embarrassment: ‘But I’m still on the waiting list for an apartment.’

“I am grateful to the judges of the Moscow Garrison Court who showed themselves to be honest people, and they acquitted him - and then all were set free. When the acquittal was read out it was unreal, like at the movies. It was clear that something was going to happen, all the prosecuting attorneys from the military prosecutor’s office were sitting there. At the time, Sasha was astonished that they had arrived: ‘Are they going to apologize to me or something?’ But as soon as the verdict had been read out, Spetsnaz officers burst into the courtroom, the prosecutor, Ivanov, got to his feet, announced that a new criminal case had been opened on Sasha, Sasha was immediately arrested, together with a second suspect - it was Gusak - and later we discovered that they had been sent to Butyrka Prison….

“Some completely new qualities revealed themselves in me then - they wouldn’t let me have any meetings with him, but I was able to phone a higher official in the State Prosecutor’s Office and began to plug the question of rights: ‘What right do you have to deprive me of meetings?’ I even kept calling the prison governor - at that moment there really were no obstacles for me - until I got permission for meetings. And later there was the change in the law regarding the treatment of the accused.

“When we got there, it was evident that in the court they were trying to make sure that wouldn’t be a repeat of what had happened last time. A group of guards stood there, so that, God forbid, no Spetsnaz should burst in again, the court was being defended from the FSB, you should have seen it. And when the judge took the decision to free Sasha from his guards, we couldn’t believe it. We grabbed him in our arms and drove him away, because we were simply scared.”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III
Conversation - IV

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

RCFS: Statement on Liquidation Ruling


Open statement by the RCFS on the decision taken by the Russian Supreme Court to liquidate it

On 23 January 2007 the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation upheld the decision of the Regional Court of the Russian Federation to liquidate our organization, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.

We were originally ordered to close down in October last year on the basis of a new NGO and anti-extremism law that made it illegal for an NGO to be headed by a person convicted of "extremist" activities. The Russian authorities wanted us to denounce the acts of our chair Stanislaw Dmitirevskiy and to remove him from our board. Furthermore, they expected us to announce this big news about our act of repudiation from our friend and colleague in public. It would have been dishonorable for us. Neither people in Nizhny Novgorod nor in the North Caucasus permitted such a disgraceful option of saving our bacon by sacrificing our friend.

The proceedings at the Supreme Court were observed by representatives of the European Commission Delegation as well as embassies of the USA, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Lithuania, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Representatives of the Amnesty International and Human Rights watch also attended the court session. There were also observers from Russian human rights organizations, including Memorial human rights center, Civic Assistance Committee and For Civic Assistance Foundation. There were several journalists working for foreign media outlets as well as for “Echo of Moscow” radio. All of them became witnesses of absolute disregard to the law.

Although we have expected this outcome, the undisguised farce of “considering” the appeal at the Supreme Court that the Russian authorities didn’t hesitate to organize in presence of international observers was absolutely shocking. Although we did our utmost to prevent Russia from losing its face once again at the world scene, no miracle is possible under the current circumstances in Russia. We, the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, have been liquidated as a Russia-based organization. Thus, the Russian authorities have proved once again that they remain absolutely indifferent to all voices of protest, regardless of what countries people who speak up in defense of liberal values and democracy come from or what is their level of recognition in the world community.

We have been supported by more than hundred public figures from some twenty countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Slovakia, Serbia, Montenegro, Estonia, Czechia, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Norway, Ukraine, Turkey, Mexico, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Portugal, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, the USA, Canada, Malaysia, Philippines, Syria, Zimbabwe. More than one hundred Russian human rights people and journalists have signed their Open Letter to President Putin in support of our organization.

It is evident that the so-called positive image of Russia is also of no concern for the present Kremlin authorities. They keep complaining about somebody’s evil intention to discredit them in the eyes of their free world counterparts when murders of dissident politicians and journalists in the contemporary Russia are raised at the international fora from time to time. They have got used to avoiding answering unsuitable questions about Chechnya for so long that now they feel free to mockingly neglect them. There has been no other response from the Russian authorities to the claim of the international public figures to the murder of Politkovskaya but mere words about continuing investigation. The Russian authorities have responded to the concerns expressed about the ruling to liquidate the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society on absurd extremist charges with the final decision to crack down on us.

The court session held at the Supreme Court yesterday was a farce. Firstly, the hearing was postponed until late afternoon without warning. It was an obvious attempt to get rid of observers but all of them were at the door of the Supreme Court at 3 pm. Then officers of justice claimed that there was not enough room for all the observers in a tiny court room where the hearing was organized. However, it turned out that they had deliberately brought a group of people who just occupied the seats in an attempt not to let observers attend the trial. When those people were asked what organization they represented, they mockingly responded, “No organization. We are just the public". Later two of those people confessed that some of them were students of the Law Academy and that they had been ordered to stay in the court room.

All the arguments of the defense side presented by our lawyer Anna Stavitskaya and Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy were ignored by the judges whereas the prosecutor’s side didn’t offer any grounded proofs of extremism in actions of Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy in his positions of the chief editor of the newspaper and the executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society.

The liquidation ruling came into force immediately after the judge had read it out. At present, the inter-regional public association Russian-Chechen Friendship Society has stopped their activities as a Russian legal entity. However, it doesn’t mean that we, members of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, have ceased our work. Due to the circumstances, we have moved the legal entity to Finland. The Russian-Chechen Friendship Society in Europe has been registered there with Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy, Oksana Chelysheva and Tatiana Banina being board members. We have Nizhny Novgorod Foundation for Promoting Tolerance established in Nizhny Novgorod and another regional Tolerance association was registered in Chechnya a few days ago. We are continuing our projects – informational, humanitarian and the legal project on the tribunal - in spite of our innumerous problems.

We are definitely going to appeal to the European Court on Human Rights in the liquidation ruling as we deal with obvious violations of Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention.

Stanislaw Dmitrievskiy,

Executive director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

Oksana Chelysheva,

Editor of the Russian-Chechen Information Agency

The ABC of the KGB - II

Paolo Guzzanti has posted the mp3 audio file of part of his interview with Oleg Gordievsky, which I presented here some time ago. It’s possible to compare it with my translation of the Italian transcript (which was in turn translated from English).

Responding to Blackmail - II

As the dispute between Russia and Estonia about war monuments intensifies, Russia is signaling that it may impose sanctions on Estonia.

(via ML)

Responding to Blackmail

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Via Prague Watchdog:

Russia’s Supreme Court okays dismantling of Russian-Chechen Friendship Society

By Tomáš Vršovský

MOSCOW - A Russian NGO, which has been reporting on the conflict in Chechnya for several years, has lost another round in the battle waged against them by the government. Today the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation turned down the appeal of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (ORChD) against the Nizhny Novgorod regional court’s verdict to dismantle the organization.

The NGO, based in Nizhny Novgorod, has been openly harassed by the authorities for the third year. Last year its director Stanislav Dmitriyevsky was given a two-year conditional sentence for publishing a Chechen resistance leader’s call for peace talks.

Russian and international human rights organizations called the case politically motivated. In recent months, dozens of foreign politicians and celebrities, including several MEPs, became members of the NGO in order to send a clear message to Russian authorities not to continue with the attacks and to prevent the NGO from being dismantled; unfortunately it was all in vain.

“It’s a clear signal to both Russian civil society and the free world,” Dmitriyevsky told Prague Watchdog at a protest rally that was held in the evening in front of Solovetsky Stone near Lubyanka, headquarters of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

“This decision shows that they totally ignore not only the Russian people, but the opinion of the free world as well,” said Dmitriyevsky, adding that ORChD would appeal the verdict in Strasbourg, although the decision of the European Court of Human Rights will not come any time soon. What’s needed now is urgent action that would enable ORChD to do its work, he added.

Conversation - IV


He didn’t regret swimming against the tide?

“No, never once. Every time I reproached him: “Well, why did you do that?” - he would reply: ‘In any case they would have made me do something so that I’d end up with blood on my hands. And if I didn’t come forward, they would take me to a line which, if I crossed it, would mean that I’d never be able to get out of that system.’

“They said he took part in the scandal when he got the feeling that he was being followed and that material was being gathered about his abuse of his powers.

“He was able to take part in the press conference so openly precisely because he was confident of his innocence, of the fact that he hadn’t done anything wrong. He considered that the corruption had to be stopped, there was hope for change. Although, when he took part in the conference, he had a meeting with Putin, at which he showed him materials about the corruption in the FSB - and from Putin’s reaction, he understood that nothing would be done. After that meeting all the phones started to be monitored, and he was placed under secret surveillance.”

But on March 25 1999 Litvinenko was arrested.

“I remember that day well, because Sasha had promised to take me and our son - Tolya was 4 at the time - to some exhibition, but the car wouldn’t start. We walked off, and Sasha told me later that he watched us go, and he felt so sad and hurt that it turned out like that… and that everything did. But in the evening, when I was at work, his colleagues came to see me, and I realized that something happened, because their faces were so strange, and I was somehow morally prepared for it. They said: ‘Marina, don’t get upset, Sasha’s been arrested - there’ll be an inquiry, and in a couple of days’ time he’ll be released again.’ I realized that it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, and that at least he was alive. He himself was always ready for unpleasant things to happen, so they wouldn’t take him unawares.

“He was put in Lefortovo [Prison], and all the applications for bail and written undertakings submitted by the lawyers had no effect, and no explanations were given as to why he presented such a danger. The matter he had been jailed for had actually happened two years before that, and the investigator told me quite openly that Sasha had been arrested now because ”he has to appear less on TV’. Landing in jail like that came as shock to Sasha himself, because he was confident that his hands were completely clean. Another prosecuting attorney told me: ‘We have nine charges against him: if one doesn’t stick, we’ll make a second, a third.’ Running a little ahead now, I will say that it was indeed so - nine months later he was acquitted of one charge, and they immediately made another…. And when we left, or more precisely fled, they had already managed to make a third charge, and there was a real possibility that Sasha might quite simply never get out.

“He was charged, among other things, with mocking detainees - something not uncommon in the practice of the special services.

“But it wasn’t even him. I never believed it. All those films were fakes, and when the trial was held - the statements of the witnesses were simply ludicrous. Right from the start, even when this story in Moscow began, I regretted that it had had such a bad effect on our family, but the thought of withdrawing, of leaving him, never entered my mind. Of course, when Sasha was in prison, my mother was very upset. She would say to me: ‘Marina, what is this, why are you so unhappy, you’ve only just started to live, everything you have is so good, you love one another, don’t you? And now, if you please, Sasha is in prison.’ And I replied: ‘Well, so what? He’ll get out prison. Just look at how many unhappy women have a husband who comes home at night but gives them nothing to hope for at all? I don’t consider myself unhappy. I have the person whom I chose, and we will get over this, and everything will be all right again.’”

(to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II
Conversation - III

Reality Block

Andrei Nekrasov’s film My Friend Sasha: A Very Russian Murder was shown last night on BBC2. It is a moving and effective analysis of the issues surrounding the Litvinenko poisoning, and draws attention to one feature in particular: the passivity and lack of response to the event and others like it within Russia itself. As Nick Fraser, the series editor writes, Nekrasov “re-creates Livinenko’s life and, more importantly, his consciousness. And he tells us how terrifying it is to be an intelligent, critical individual in contemporary Russia.” In one sequence, Anna Politkovskaya is interviewed, and she simply says that in Russia now there is a desire among most of the population not to be informed of what is really taking place in the country. People just don’t want to know. And this blocking of reality, she suggests, may be even more deadly than the banning of independent investigative writing and journalism.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Conversation - III


Viktor Shebalin, who appeared with your husband at that most scandalous press conference in the autumn of 1998, said later on that during his work in the “organs” [security services, tr.] your husband passed all the information on to Berezovsky. There were rumours that the people who took part in the press conference got large sums of money for it.

“Shebalin was the one who took part in the press conference as a provocateur from the FSB. Rumours were spreading that Sasha was getting a million for taking part in that press conference - he told me: ‘Marina, if I had taken money from Boris, we would not be able to remain friends.’ And as for the press conference itself - the discussions about eliminating Berezovsky took place during December, and he first told Berezovsky about it in February - so it wasn’t as if he’d received an order and then run off to report it… I recall that December, because Sasha was very troubled and downcast. Every time I asked him to go to a concert, he’d say: ‘Marina, you can’t imagine how little I feel like going to concerts. The things I know, I can’t tell you.’ He didn’t even say that to me. He would come home upset. I would say: ‘Put it out of your mind!’ He replied: “I can’t do it just like that. If you like, I’ll go for a walk near the house for a while after work, I’ll go away somewhere.’ He took it all very much to heart, it was hard for him to separate his life from his work.

“At some point they decided that the initiative to eliminate Berezovsky came from their chief, their administration, for this was a very independent division - and that the people upstairs didn’t know about it. And they took their report to the director of the FSB, at that time it was [General Nikolai] Kovalev. He listened to what they had to tell him, called in their chief, who of course denied having said what he’d said, claiming that nothing of the kind had taken place. And all those who had taken part was withdrawn from the staff for the period of the investigation. At some point in July Kovalev retired from the post of FSB director, and Putin was appointed. I remember back then asking: ‘ Sasha, is this good or bad?’ He said: ‘We don’t even know who he is.’ In the end it became clear that no one was going to seriously examine the question of the attempt on Berezovsky’s life. And then the matter of their coming out into the open at the press conference came up. That hadn’t been done merely for Berezovsky’s sake. Sasha was so unhappy that the corruption in the FSB was ruining the image of the regular officers who were genuinely trying to prevent crime. Looking at it from my woman’s point of view, I got angry: ‘What is all this? It’s dangerous for our family, and no one knows how it will end.’ But Sasha had already developed this position which bordered on teenage stubbornness - ‘If I don’t do it, who will?’"

He didn’t ask your advice?

“No. But even if he had asked me, in the end he would have done it all his own way anyway. I realized it was going to be something serious, and I could have distanced myself, but I decided I would stick with him. Sasha was not just my husband, he was also my friend. And even if he couldn’t initiate me into all of his doings, he knew he would have my support. And I could always turn my back on him and know that that would be my protection.”

When you did you learn about the press conference?

“The day before. They spent the night away from home as they were afraid they might be arrested. After the press conference was over, there was the shock, of course, but they weren’t arrested either the next day or the day after that. This atmosphere of silent anxiety, a sense of danger, set in. First they remained suspended, then they started to be dismissed, and in order not to end up without work they got jobs at the place where Berezovsky worked as the government representative for the CIS. At the same time Sasha told me: ‘Marina, you must be prepared for the fact that they will either kill me in a doorway somewhere or put me in prison.’ I was terrified: ‘Sasha, how can tell me this?’ And he replied: ‘I’m telling you what will happen, and you can take it as you want to.’”

{to be continued)

See also: Conversation
Conversation - II

Sunday, January 21, 2007

FrontPage Symposium

FrontPage Magazine is currently hosting a symposium moderated by Jamie Glazov, on the subject From Russia With Death.

Participants include:

Oleg Kalugin, a retired Major General of the Soviet KGB.

Richard Pipes, a Professor Emeritus at Harvard who is one of the world’s leading authorities on Soviet history. He is the author of 19 books, the most recent being his new autobiography Vixi: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger.

Vladimir Bukovsky, a former leading Soviet dissident who spent twelve years in Soviet prisons, labor camps and psychiatric hospitals for his fight for freedom. His works include To Build a Castle and Judgement in Moscow.

Jim Woolsey, director of the CIA from 1993-95 and a former Navy undersecretary and arms-control negotiator.

Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the former acting chief of Communist Romania’s espionage service. He is the highest ranking official ever to have defected from the Soviet bloc. He is author of Red Horizons, republished in 27 countries. In 1989, Ceausescu and his wife were executed at the end of a trial where most of the accusations had come word-for-word out of Pacepa’s book.

David Satter, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute and a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He is the author of Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State.

Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a former leading Russian dissident and a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. Upon arriving in the United States after his forced exile from the Soviet Union, he headed the New York-based Center for Democracy in the USSR.


Andrei Piontkovsky, a member of International PEN-club, currently a Hudson Institute Visiting Fellow and author of Another Look into Putin’s Soul (Hudson, 2006).

From the discussion:

Bukovsky: I am an analyst, not a policeman, so I don’t follow the current lines of Scotland Yard’s investigation, and, frankly, I don’t believe they will catch any murderer. But the general picture is pretty clear to me.

Consider this: in July of this year, the Russian Duma passed a law authorizing the Russian President to use secret services as “death squads” in order to eliminate “extremists” — even on the foreign territory (Federal Law of 27 July 2006 N 153-F3).

At the same time, the Duma amended another law, expanding the definition of “extremism” to include anyone “libellously” critical of the current Russian regime (Federal Law of 27 July 2006 N 148-F3).

Thus, as we warned in a letter to the Times on July 11 (together with Oleg Gordievsky):

“a stage is set for any critic of Putin’s regime here, especially those campaigning against Russian genocide in Chechnya, to have an appointment with a poison-tipped umbrella. According to the statement by the RF Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, the black list of potential targets is already composed.”

Then followed the murders of Anna Politkovskaya and Alexander Litvinenko. The question is: why would the Russian authorities rush through these laws if they had no intention of implementing them? The ball, therefore, is now in the Russian court: they have to prove to us that they did not do it.

- - - - - - -

I agree with most of what has been said. Except, perhaps, a largely unnecessary analysis into as deep a history as Ivan the Terrible or even Nicholas I. Both of them were hardly worse than their contemporaries in Europe. Instead, let me provide an update to the general political context of the present-day Russian situation:

The current ruling clique in Kremlin knows very well how much they are hated in the country, all the "polls" notwithstanding. They know that they are perceived as usurpers and impostors. True, in 2000 Putin came to power by winning an election, but so did Hitler in 1932. And, pretty much like Hitler, he immediately proceeded to dismantle all democratic checks and balances.

Now, as the power transition of 2008 is approaching, Putin is paranoid in his suspicion that the West will try to use this opportunity to stage an "orange revolution" Ukrainian style. Hence his government’s clumsy provocation against the British Embassy in Moscow a couple of years ago (the "electronic stone" case) aimed at discrediting non-governmental organizations perceived by them as hostile, cutting their funding from abroad and placing them under the Kremlin's control. Hence is the decision to silence the most persistent critics of the regime -- even by violent means if need be. In a way, this is understandable: they know they all will be in jail if a genuine democrat wins an election, particularly if it happens by means of a popular upheaval.

The question is: what should be done by the West and, first of all, by the British government? As the police investigation of the case is at its end, we expect the British Government to finally make a statement and to announce the measures in connection with it. I am afraid that the preliminary indications are that Blair will try to avoid a firm stand on the matter using one or another excuse. At least a leak to that effect was published by Sunday Times couple of weeks ago alleging that he said to the cabinet: "Our priority is to retain good long-term relations with Russia". If this is to happen, and quite apart from the fact that he will be in dereliction of his prime duties to the security of the UK citizens as well as to the sovereignty of this country, it will send a very wrong signal to the Russian rulers. They already believe that their energy supplies and the world's dependence on them places them above the international law and will allow them to get away even with murder. Further acts of appeasement by the West will make them outright dangerous.

What if they occupy Georgia or Moldova tomorrow? What if they do something equally stupid against one of the Baltic countries which are members of NATO now? What would the West do then? More excuses, more appeasement? No, in my firm belief, they should be stopped now, they should be shown their proper place in the world.

The options are limited and none of them is good. If Britain simply kicks out some 30 odd Russian diplomats from the Russian Embassy in London, there will be tit-for-tat expulsions, and the British government will be left looking rather silly. A suspension of diplomatic relations is even more silly, as we all know they will be quietly resumed in a year or so. In both cases, nothing would be achieved. Russia would not be forced to back off while relations will be spoiled for a couple of years anyway. Therefore, I suggest:

First, it should be made absolutely clear that a murder of a British citizen on British soil by agents of a foreign power constitutes an act of aggression and a violation of British sovereignty, and, as it happened, an act of a radioactive attack on a NATO country. Second, Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty should be invoked demanding a collective response by the NATO countries. Third, NATO should present Russia with an ultimatum demanding an immediate repeal of that offensive law with apologies. Failing that, Russia should be expelled from all international organizations, starting with G8, Council of Europe, WTO, etc. etc. Top Russian officials should not be allowed to step on the territory of NATO countries. Russia should be proclaimed a rogue state.

What would be the likely response? At first, Russia will posture as an injured innocent, it might even flex its "gas muscles" for a while. But, then, in two years time, after that all-important transition of power in 2008, they will quietly drop that law from the books (without saying much to their public at home), and will be eager to mend fences. Of course, for two years relations will be strained, but they will be in any case. At least, Russia will be forced to climb down.

Iran Conducts Missile War Games

Via AP:

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran plans three days of military maneuvers, including short-range missile tests, beginning Sunday — its first since the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions against it in late December, state-run television said.

“The elite Revolutionary Guards plans to begin a three-day missile maneuver on Sunday near Garmsar city,” said the broadcast. The city is located in northern Iran on the edge of Kavir desert, about 60 miles southeast of Tehran.

“Zalzal and Fajr-5 missiles will be test fired in the war game,” the television quoted an unnamed commander of the guards, as saying. Both are considered short-range missiles.

Conversation - II


You didn’t find his profession a strain?

“Well, Sasha wasn’t in a department where they were involved in spying or where there were any super-secrets. And it wasn’t as if he would come home from work, sit me down at the table and start telling me all about it. Actually it could be compared to work in the police, because he did a lot of criminal investigations, carrying out some sort of detective work. At the time we met he was working on what’s called the “Georgian line” - there were disputes between Georgia and Abkhazia, and in Moscow members of rich Georgian families were often kidnapped for ransom, and the money was spent on the war. To me this didn’t seem especially dangerous - one got the feeling that in this kind of work he was protected, he was working in a serious branch of government, it was all official. But what I saw mostly was how people were grateful in a human way for what he did for them. Just a month after we met, he freed the kidnapped son of one family - and the family said that Sasha was now like a son to them.

"But then he gradually began to move from one department to another, out of anti-terrorist work into other fields, and in 1996-97 I could already sense his dissatisfaction with the work. He was a detective, doing the groundwork before a criminal case was opened, collecting evidence, and when he was given an assignment to carry out he would have this boyish enthusiasm. It seemed me that in some ways he even romanticized his work, because there was no ideology in it for him, he just saw it as a way to help people. And then suddenly the problems began - he took on some some case, and at a certain stage they got in his way, wouldn’t let him carry it through - they said he’d dug too deep. And at some point the disillusionment set in. He wanted to find a place in the system where he would be allowed to take a case to its conclusion. But in the last place he worked - it was URPO [Analysis and Suppression of the Activity of Criminal Organizations, tr.] - the violence had already begun, and it seems to me that there already was a miniature model of what just now has acquired a governmental scale in Russia.

"The bosses simply gave themselves the right to murder - independently of whether it was in Russia or abroad, if they thought these people were terrorists or committing unlawful acts. The task might be to abduct someone, beat them up - and this was done completely outside the law. It was in these conditions that he got to know Mikhail Trepashkin, who is now in prison. That was the first time that Sasha realized something was wrong. Because Misha Trepashkin had once started a conflict in the FSB and had even won a criminal case against Patrushev, who was then the chief of some division. And since Misha still had an official FSB identity badge, an assignment was issued to meet him in the entrance, give him a bad beating, frighten him and take away his official ID. When Sasha began to get to the bottom of this episode, he realized that it quite simply should not have happened, because Misha was an absolutely normal chap, an absolutely straightforward individual, and as a result they became friends. But what happened next was already the beginning of the end, when Sasha received the order to kill Berezovsky. That was a perfect example of how an order could be given orally, in conversation with the leadership - and then you couldn’t even prove that it had been given.”

[To be continued]

See also: Conversation

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Panorama Program

BBC’s Panorama will screen a special program investigating the Litvinenko poisoning in London on Monday 22 January at 2030 on BBC One, and also at the Panorama website.


From: Natalya Mozgovaya, Conversation with Marina Litvinenko - 1 (my translation):

“Almost a month has passed since the moment when Sasha died, but the bitterness of the loss is only coming now,” says Marina Litvinenko. Tears fill her eyes, trickle down her cheeks, and she automatically brings to her face a handkerchief that is already soaked through. “It’s all right, this will happen from time to time… Apparently, there’s some kind of moment of inertia - you still feel the person, you live on feelings from the past, but now it’s going further and further away, and you gradually start to realize this. I think it hasn’t yet started for me, this most terrible moment, it’s only beginning to approach. Even when I saw him on the day he died - I didn’t yet feel that he wasn’t there any more. Sasha always said of our relationship: ‘Marina, I love you more than you love me.’ It was a joke, of course, but it’s only now, with the passage of time, that I realize how much I loved him.”

Marina first met Alexander Litvinenko in 1993. She was a dance instructor, and he was a detective. They were both 31 - she had a divorce behind her, while he was still married, with two children.

“It wasn’t love at first sight,” she smiles with embarrassment. “We weren’t young any more - Sasha had a marriage which had already more or less come to nothing, and I had a marriage which had ended 4 years before that; so there weren’t any particular illusions in that sense. He came to my place on my birthday with some friends of mine. They were also working in dance, and he helped them to clear up an unpleasant episode. They’d gone to Sri Lanka to appear in a show, and their impresario had 'conned' them. But when my friends found their own contacts, earned some money and came back, the people who had sent them there suddenly began demanding money from them, it was real extortion. At the time, Sasha was involved in fighting organized crime, foul play, extortion. My friends were very scared, they were afraid to go out after one of them had an encounter on the stairs and was very badly beaten, and was told: 'Next time we’ll just break your legs, and you won’t be able to dance any more.' When they brought Sasha to me on my birthday, they warned me: 'We’ve got an FSB man with us (maybe it wasn’t the FSB yet then, but the FSK, after the break-up of the KGB the name changed several times), Marina, he’s an unusual type, so cheerful, he has this sense of humour, he’s not at all like someone from the law enforcement agencies.' Well, we all have some stereotyped images of what ‘Chekists’ look like, and I had some too. And when I saw Sasha, there really was something that didn’t seem right, somehow - he was like a little boy, easy to get along with, on my first impression.

“It’s true that later on, when we got to know each other better, I saw his hardness, especially in serious situations, when he started to do his work or take decisions. But that was later, when his 10-year-old marriage had broken down - and he’d started to court me, very quietly and unnoticeably. At some point he just wrapped me in his attention, and I felt so comfortable and secure that I probably realized it was serious. He was a very emotional person. For example, when he gave me presents, he couldn’t wait, he would bring them a month, two months before the occasion. He’d say: ‘Marina, this is a present for you for March 8 [International Women’s Day, tr.]’, and it was only the end of January. And he’d bring me flowers. Perhaps not as often as I’d have liked, but when I really wanted them I could buy them for myself, and I’d tell Sasha: “I want to say a big thank you for giving me the chance to buy myself these flowers.” I realized that he simply didn’t have the time. But when he did it himself, it was twice as precious.”

(to be continued)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Marina Litvinenko in Shiva Yamim

Earlier this month, the Shiva Yamim (Seven Days) supplement to the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth published an extensive and moving two-part interview by the Israeli journalist Natalya Mozgovaya with Alexander Litvinenko’s widow, Marina Litvinenko. In the interview, Marina Litvinenko gives a great deal of information about her husband’s early life and career, and also about the events leading up to and following his poisoning in London.

Now Natalya Mozgovaya has republished the Russian text of the interview on her Livejournal weblog - here and here. I hope to present some extracts in English translation in due course

(hat tip: Veronica Khokhlova)

"Death Squads" in Chechnya

From Chechnya Weekly:


The bi-weekly newspaper Novaya gazeta ran an article on January 11 entitled “Zapasnye Organy” (Spare Organs), which claimed that Russia’s special services had created secret structures under the cover of private security firms and special services’ veterans groups to carry out assassinations. The article’s author, Igor Korolkov, had written an article in the weekly Moskovskiye novosti back in 2002 concerning a 70-page document he had obtained, which detailed how such structures should be set up. According to the document, the putative purposes of such secret structures included combating criminal gangs and, as the document stated, “the neutralization or physical liquidation of leaders and active members of terrorist, intelligence-diversionary groups that are conducting war against the federal authorities.” Korolkov wrote in Novaya gazeta that recent events, including the assassination of Novaya gazeta correspondent Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow and the poisoning death of former FSB Lieutenant Colonel Aleksandr Litvinenko, “compels us to turn to that document once again and interpret it in a new way.”

Referring to Korolkov’s articles in 2002 and earlier this month, Aleksandr Cherkasov of the Memorial human rights group wrote on, the website of Yezhednevny zhurnal, on January 13, “For me, by virtue of the specific character of my many years of work in the Caucasus, both then and now, it is absolutely obvious: certain parallel extra-governmental structures are operating in Russia and in Chechnya. In fact, a system of `death squads’ has been operating there since 2000. People are kidnapped; they disappear. In all of the official structures, relatives are told by officials that they know nothing about the abductions. And later on, in the best-case scenarios, they discover the body. Most often, they find nothing.”

Cherkasov recalled the case of the mass grave found near the Russian military base at Khankala, outside of Grozny, in February 2001 (Chechnya Weekly, February 27, 2001). “More than 50 bodies; all of those people who were identified had been detained at different times and in different places,” he wrote. “There were signs of cruel torture and violent deaths. The circumstances of place, time and modus operandi proved the existence of a system. People are abducted at different times and in different places, and then they wind up together near a federal base.” Cherkasov wrote that the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling against Russia last year in several cases of disappearances in Chechnya means that “the existence of such illegal structures” and “the responsibility of the state for the abduction and death of these people” have been “officially recognized by international judicial authorities.”

Last July, in the first ruling of its kind on a disappearance case in Chechnya, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia guilty of violating the “right to life” of Khadzimurat Yandiev, who disappeared in February 2000 after a Russian general ordered him shot. The court also ruled that the victim’s mother, Fatima Bazorkina, who brought the suit against Russia, had suffered inhumane treatment because of the uncertainty surrounding her son’s fate and ordered Moscow to pay her 35,000 euros (around US$44,500) as compensation (Chechnya Weekly, July 27, 2006). In November of last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia had violated the right to life, liberty and security of three other kidnapping victims – Said-Khusein and Said-Magomed Imakaev, and Nura Said-Aliyevna Luluyeva. Said-Khusein Imakaev was abducted in December 2000, and his father, Said-Magomed Imakaev, was kidnapped in June 2002, after filing a complaint about Said-Khusein’s abduction with the European Court of Human Rights in February 2002.

“The case of the Imakaevs…is simply unique,” Aleksandr Cherkasov wrote for “In 2000, the son was taken from a checkpoint and disappeared. The father filed a complaint with the Strasbourg court. After that, the father also disappeared. This case is not the only one of its kind. In all of these cases, the interest of the federal side – that is, the state – in the deaths of these people is clear. Which is to say that the very thing Igor Korolkov is writing about – the extra-judicial killing of people `in the state’s interest’ – exists.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

In Memoriam

From Radio Liberty [my tr.]:

Dutch television has shown the premiere of the film In Memoriam: Aleksander Litvinenko, by directors Masha Novikova and Jos de Putter. The film contains a unique interview with Litvinenko shot by the Dutch film-makers two years ago. The film was broadcast in prime time on the second state channel of Netherlands TV, at 9pm on Monday. The authors compiled it from video recordings they made in Litvinenko’s London apartment in 2004, in Moscow with Anna Politkovskaya, and there are also new interviews with Litvinenko’s father, Walter, and Litvinenko’s friends Akhmed Zakayev and Vladimir Bukovsky.

After the offensively trivial and one-sided image of the “fugitive KGB man” and spy (something which Litvinenko, incidentally, never was), as he is profiled today in the newspapers in schematic fashion, as if he were Spider Man or even the hero of some sinister fairy-tale for grown-ups, the screen finally showed Litvinenko the human being, with all his doubts and fears. A human being who had slowly come to a realization of what kind of organization he had ended up in.

Masha Novikova, the director of the project, talks to Radio Liberty about the film:

“It’s very interesting. I asked his father - right, so he went to work for the KGB, and what did he think about that, what did you think of it? And his father replied frankly - ‘Well, why not? We’d watched Stirlitz [a Russian television series about a WW2 spy], and we thought it was good.’ And Alexander himself, in his interview with Jos, also says that it all started out as something totally naive, some heroic thing about catching spies. A boy’s sort of thing. But then gradually, gradually… First the disillusionment, when he was in Chechnya, and then the disillusionment he called the ‘red line’, which can’t be crossed - killing people. He realized that executing people without a trial, without a legal process, was something he would never be able to do, and that was the beginning of an enormous turning-point in his life. When he changed from being a an officer of the KGB to a prisoner of Lefortovo and Butyrki, he was able to savour the ‘charm’ of it in its entirety.”

Alexander Litvinenko (excerpt from In memoriam: Alexander Litvinenko): “You know, I spent the first war in Chechnya. I passed though all the hotspots in the territory of the former Soviet Union. Soldiers died in my arms. I remember this 18-year-old lad… I remember I was still taking his pulse, and it stopped. And during all that time not one leader, not one politician ever explained to us what we were doing there. Who or what we were protecting there. And what we were fighting for […] By then I already knew that it was a gang of bandits. And I couldn’t see any difference between the officers and the bandits. Against whom we were fighting, by the way. With the sole difference that the bandits had no state authority, but our officers had.. And I realized that I’d ended up in a gang, I became aware of that. I’d already realized it from 1996 onwards. But it’s very difficult to leave a gang, any gang. Even in the West, if you end up in a gang, it’s very hard to leave.”

Jos de Putter filmed Litvinenko in his own home. And when Anna Politkovskaya was murdered, and Litvinenko fell ill, we thought that… When he brought the films to me that day, I examined them, and it turned out that it was unique material. Because this is him at home, is rather intimate. He sits there, watching pictures of himself being arrested in the courtroom, and comments on it all. It was somehow very moving, especially after his death, to see it all again…


In the film Alexander Litvinenko shows the Dutch film-makers video cassettes, one after the other. On one of them he is listening to his acquittal after having spent several months behind bars on trumped-up charges. At that moment, men in masks burst into the courtroom and arrest him again, taking him off to Butyrka Prison. On another cassette a man with an altered voice admits that he received an order to kill Litvinenko.


Alexander Litvinenko Television Program

Netherlands Public Broadcasting (NPB) has released a 50 minute program about Alexander Litvinenko. Among other things, the film contains an interview Litvinenko gave to Dutch television in 2004. There are also interviews with Alexander Litvinenko’s father, and with Akhmed Zakayev.

It’s possible to watch some excerpts from the film on YouTube, at these links:

Interview with Aleksander Litvinenko (English-language)
In memoriam: Aleksander Litvinenko (Dutch. English)

There is also a Frontline Club video of Litvinenko talking about Anna Politkovskaya’s murder here.

RFE/RL’s Russian-language service has published a review and transcript of parts of the Dutch television program, and I hope to present an English translation of some or all of this fairly soon on this blog.

Responding to Blackmail

As the Kremlin continues to intensify its programme of anti-Western policies, pronouncements and actions, it is increasingly turning its attention to Russia’s immediate neighbours, and to the Baltic States in particular. The target currently being singled out for hostile treatment is the country of Estonia - especially disliked by Moscow because of its successful transformation from a former Soviet colony into a modern European state.

Estonian parliamentarian and MEP Tunne Kelam has issued a statement saying that Estonia must not remain silent in the face of the smear campaign by Russia and must also call on its partners and allies to respond to Moscow’s blackmail. BNS reports that

According to the MEP, the attacks have to be countered with the same weapon that is used by Moscow, that is, by taking issues of contention to the international level, to the organizations of which Estonia, unlike Russia, is a member.

The democratic world must respond to Russian blackmail with solidarity and a united front, Kelam said.

“Estonia has the right, even the obligation to demand this from our allies and partners,” the member of the European People’s Party — European Democrats parliamentary group said. “Otherwise we may indeed find ourselves in the year 1939.”

Kelam said the year 1939 comes to mind when one looks at the accusations and threats against Estonia pouring out from Moscow day after day.

“According to the foreign minister of the Russian Federation, the chairman of the State Duma and several other senior politicians Estonia is a country where Fascism is being rehabilitated, the outcome of World War II revised and the memory of those fallen in that war desecrated,” Kelam said.

“To punish Estonia, representatives of the various branches of power of the Russian Federation regard it as necessary to end all kinds of relations with the parties represented in the Riigikogu (with the exception of the Center Party which has signed a cooperation agreement with the power party of President Putin), impose economic sanctions against Estonia, redirect the transit going through Estonia, and bring the issue of the so-called Estonian Fascism to the international level,” he said.

Kelam underlined that such a stormy overreaction was prompted by a law on the protection of war graves adopted by Estonia’s supreme legislative body, which Moscow is attempting to arbitrarily present as being directed against Russia.

He said Moscow’s behavior toward Estonia serves as an unpleasant confirmation that despite all the efforts of the past 15 years and concessions and deductions offered to Russia, integration of that country into the space of European values and norms of behavior has failed.

“Even more, the inexplicable aggressiveness of Russia shows that we are dealing with an unreliable and dangerous state which in the pursuit of its bjectives does not shy away from using even the most Goebbelsian methods of propaganda,” the MEP said. (Tallinn newroom, +372 610 8861,

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The ABC of the KGB

The following is my own translation of the interview with Oleg Gordievsky published on Rivoluzione Italiana, the blog of Senator Paolo Guzzanti:

“Later, I never knew if Roman Prodi had or had not been recruited by the Fifth Department of the KGB, but one thing is certain, and I remember it very well: when I was in Moscow between 1981 and 1982, Prodi was very popular in the KGB: they were enthusiastic: they found him in tune with the Soviet Union. What’s more, the KGB never enlisted members of the Communist Party, because it was forbidden, but only people of a left-wing, but not communist, orientation, with a predilection for university professors and all those who were able to influence public opinion."

This is said into my voice recorder by Oleg Gordievsky, the greatest dissident and defector from the KGB, who later became a high official in the British intelligence services and the most authoritative historian of the subject together with Professor Christopher Andrew, with whom he wrote a fundamental text for the University of Cambridge: KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (translated into Italian as “La Storia segreta del KGB”, editore Rizzoli). The interview took place during an eight-hour meeting in Gordievsky’s house, a picturesque woodland cottage one hour’s journey from London.

It is Oleg Gordievsky’s wife who comes to pick me up in a red Citroen in front of the little Victorian railway station of the country town near which they live. After eight hours of conversations and revelations, I think I can say that we have become friends and by the time night has fallen we will say our fond goodbyes in front of the same station under a driving rain that is straight out of a British film. Oleg’s wife is an adorable lady who has set the table in front of the window that looks onto the garden where the foxes come to eat - Oleg feeds them, together with the squirrels. The cottage is at once Spartan and fairytale-like. Maureen has prepared a succession of excellent canapés with French cheeses, Scottish salmon, and Italian wine, and her husband will place on the table more than or two truths which have not been revealed until now.

When we talk of Prodi, into whose story, as President of the Mitrokhin Commission, I have made open and convinced inquiry, Gordievsky makes an angry gesture as though he wanted to free himself from a weight, a gesture which for too many people has only served to underline the suspicion that he does not really know if Prodi had or had not become an agent of influence of the KGB. He points to the voice recorder which for hours he has forbidden me to use, and finally says to me: “I want to make a declaration which I have never made until now.”

He takes a sip of wine from his glass and says that Prodi was very popular in the KGB and that in the Fifth Directorate of he was often spoken of, and with enthusiasm: which obviously does not prove that Prodi had become a man of the KGB, but explains how it was simply incumbent on the Commission of Inquiry to seriously examine this hypothesis, given how embarrassing it appears from the moment that Prodi became the current Prime Minister of Italy.

Then Gordievsky says:

“In the period from 1980 to 1981 I was in Moscow and then I saw quite a lot of the men of the department that is now called the foreign intelligence service (SVR) and heard constant rumours from which it could be understood that Roman Prodi was especially popular among those in the KGB who busied themselves with France, Spain and Italy. But Italy was above all the country where the 5th Department chalked up its greatest success, having enlisted more than a hundred regular agents, not counting the thousands of voluntary collaborators. At that period I wasn’t interested in asking what had really happened in the end, and if he had really been enlisted or just maintained as a possible useful contact for operations. I don’t know, and in fact I am not saying that: but I can guarantee that his popularity in the KGB was very great.”

What do you mean by popularity?

“They used to say: ‘Prodi is more or less pro-Soviet Union’, and it was obvious that he was considered a potential candidate for enlistment in the KGB. But the fact is that there were thousands of Italian candidates, especially among the politicians, and for me Prodi was only one possible candidate among many. Whether they managed to recruit him in the end, I never knew, because I left Moscow and could not have that kind of information, and that is the reason why, honestly, I have always replied that as far as I know I cannot assert it, when I am asked if Prodi had a relationship with the KGB.”

And according to you the KGB in Italy was dealing with him?

“It’s obvious that in the Rome KGB station there were some people who knew him well personally, or who at least followed him very closely.”

Is it true that when the KGB did its enlisting, mostly in university environments, it avoided members of the Italian Communist Party?

“The decision not to recruit agents of the KGB from among members of the PCI was taken many years ago. It was forbidden. The explanation of this prohibition was that it was necessary in order to avoid the potential discredit to the Communist Party that the uncovering of an agent would do. But the second reason consisted in the fact that there was no need to recruit the Communists because they were our people in any case: we could always apply to them and ask them for something, and they would give it without asking for an enlistment contract with the KGB. For this a limitless budget was allocated for the recruitment of members of Parliament, not among Communist exponents, but among sympathizers with the Soviet Union. Next, among the most sought-after categories came the university professors, the industrial leaders and anyone able to address public life or exercise an influence on the government. The preferred method was to recruit someone directly on the inside of government, or people who were in a position to influence the government choices. Next on the list were those who worked for the government, the staff of the civil administration, the army, the foreign ministry and the Prime Minister’s cabinet. That was the ABC of the KGB, so to speak."

Do you think that members of the Communist Party were trained, if not as agents of the KGB, then for illegal actions?

“Yes, right up to the end, and in various types of schools both in Moscow and outside it.”

Until when?

“Until 1991, but even in 1992 many Communists, also Italian ones, attended the schools for foreign Communists in Moscow. My sister taught in one of those schools and she knows perfectly how things went."

The teaching was solely political and ideological?

“The Italian Communists, and also the those of other countries who lived in free democracies and therefore did not have to fight tyrannies and dictatorships, were instructed not only in Marxist-Leninist ideology, but also in disciplines that had nothing to do with it, like coded communications, for example. I used to wonder: what was the point of a training like that for Communists who lived in freedom under democratic regimes? Their reply to us was that all Communists, even in the democratic countries, had to be trained in coded communications so that they could go underground in case of a right-wing coup d’etat or an American invasion.”

And all this happened during the 80s and 90s?

"I have already said: until 1992, the end of the Soviet Union.”

So it was also happening right through the Gorbachev era, the democratic one.

“But what difference do you think Gorbachev made? It was the Soviet era, right to the end: with Gorbachev nothing really changed. And in fact, until 1991 mountains of cash were spent on training foreign Communists.”

In Italy the Communists say that this training only took place during the 1970s, when according to them there was the real danger of a military coup in our country and because there was a need for training in clandestine methods. But they have always fiercely denied that the training continued until the end of the Soviet Union, until the day before yesterday, that is.

“And instead it is like I say: the training continued in all sectors and in all geographic areas and was divided between official schools within Moscow and secret schools outside Moscow. Those who were trained there were ultimately not only western Communists like the Italians, but also all the Palestinian groups and those Arab terrorists who later became the heads of Al-Qaeda. Not to mention the people who came from Angola, from Mozambique, South Africa, Nicaragua, Cuba and Chile. They all followed courses of three types: military, espionage and counterespionage. The course in espionage and counterespionage were conducted in secret schools outside Moscow. So it is obvious that they were all, Italians included, trained not to defend themselves from nonexistent coups d’état, but in order to prepare pro-Soviet regimes, especially in Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America - but not only there.”

You made a reference to Al-Qaeda. Can you say more about that?

“We say that the KGB made a selection of persons to train coming from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the countries of the Middle East, from Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia: they became all the future cadres of Al-Qaeda. Indeed, colonel Alexander Litvinenko has made acute analyses and important revelations on precisely this point: while whoever trained these people did not perhaps expect September 11, they were perfectly aware that they had created and oiled mechanisms for the production of terror which could therefore have taken the terror the terror against the West, as they had been taught.”

Litvinenko said in the interview for Novosti Ukraina on December 28 2005 that the famous Captain Talik - for slandering whom Mario Scaramella is now in jail - was connected with Al-Qaeda. Do you know anything about that?

“I can only say that there is always a tie between experts of Soviet terrorism and Al-Qaeda, but I am not in a position to say what role this specific man had.”

Israel Warns Russia on Arms Shipments

From the Jerusalem Post:

Voicing extreme concern over Russia’s recent sale of advanced anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, senior diplomatic and defense officials warned Moscow Tuesday that the deal could have serious security implications that would even “get back to Russia.”

Senior officials in Jerusalem said they “were not pleased” with the sale of the anti-aircraft missiles, but that Russia was a sovereign country and they could not intervene. They did, however, issue a warning: “We hope they understand that this is a threat that could come back to them as well."

Earlier Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Moscow had sent air defense missiles to Teheran, the first high-level confirmation that their delivery took place despite US complaints. Ivanov did not specify how many missile systems had been delivered.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

End of Amnesty in Chechnya

Via Prague Watchdog (my tr.)

Amnesty deadline runs out in Chechnya

By Umalt Chadayev

CHECHNYA - Today (January 15) marks the end of the amnesty for members of armed groups and federal servicemen which was declared by the Russian State Duma in September 2006.

According to the data of the various law enforcement bodies, from 470 to 546 guerrillas turned themselves in during the amnesty. The oldest was aged 75, and the youngest 16.

This information is supplied by the Interior Ministry of the Chechen Republic. A Chechen police officer says that in his opinion the government amnesty for former members of armed groups “will save the lives of hundreds of people.”

“Not only has it been possible to save the lives of these people, many of whom were drawn into illegal activities by means of deception, but also the lives of hundreds of others - soldiers, members of the law enforcement agencies and so on. After all, 500 armed men are a rather serious force. Especially if one considers that in the whole of the North Caucasus about 1,500 militants are operating,” the officer asserts.

According to the officer, criminal proceedings have been opened in relation to only four of those who have voluntarily laid down their arms. “In 265 cases there were no criminal proceedings at all, and more than 60 militants have already been granted amnesty. Investigations are continuing into the cases of the rest,” he says.

The Kremlin-backed Chechen Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov has called the amnesty “effective”. “If 400 well-armed insurgents with experience of partisan activities have saved an equivalent number of lives, in addition to their own, then the amnesty can with justification be called effective,” he said in an interview for RIA Novosti.

“This action has been thought out in depth, and is aimed primarily at that section of our young people who have been exposed to the influence of a hostile ideology and know nothing except weapons.” Kadyrov also expressed the opinion that there is no need for an extension of the amnesty.

However, not everyone agrees that the amnesty has produced exclusively positive results. “The widely proclaimed amnesty is yielding its fruits: people who believed the federal government’s promises and were granted formal amnesty are being abducted. And then they are charged with the offences from which they have only just been seemingly freed,” representatives of the Memorial human rights centre say.

“This amnesty is just another PR move by the Russian authorities. I believe that was intended primarily to grant amnesty to soldiers of the federal forces who had committed various crimes in the course of military actions,” 44-year-old Ismail – an instructor at one of the republic’s institutes of higher education in Grozny – is convinced. “As for the guerrillas who have surrendered in groups and individually, I have serious doubts about them. I somehow didn’t see any guerrillas being shown on TV coming down from the mountains with weapons in their hands.”

“It was recently announced that a 75-year-old guerrilla had turned himself in! Imagine this white-bearded old man running about in the forest with a machine gun. Or earlier there was a story about the surrender of a female “accomplice of the insurgents”. This may have been a woman somewhere who once gave someone a meal or gave him lodging for the night. In addition, the people who have ‘surrendered’ include those who gave up all practical activity back in the first military campaign. Sultan Geliskhanov, for example, who headed the Ichkerian department of state security under [first Chechen president] Dudayev, and who did not actually take part in the fighting,” he says.

The amnesty for former guerrillas which ended today is by no means the first one declared by Russia during the two military campaigns in the republic. In December 1994, after the beginning of the “First Chechen War”, the Russian government declared an amnesty for members of Dzhokhar Dudayev’s armed groups.

Around 500 people took advantage of the December 13-17 1994 amnesty declared by President Boris Yeltsin. In February 1996 the Russian State Duma granted an amnesty to Salman Raduyev’s guerrillas, who in January of that year had taken hostages in the Daghestani city of Kizlyar. This was a measure that was forced on the authorities, since only thereafter did Raduyev subsequently release 12 members of the the Novosibirsk OMON who were taken prisoner in the village of Pervomayskoye.

After the completion of military actions in the territory of the Chechen Republic, in March 1997 the Russian State Duma declared an amnesty for all participants in armed actions in Chechnya, including both guerrillas and soldiers of the federal forces who had committed crimes in the course of military operations.

On December 13 1999, already in the course of a “counter-terrorist operation”, the Russian State Duma declared a new amnesty for members of armed groups. One additional amnesty for guerrillas was declared in Chechnya during September 2003 in connection with the adoption of the republic’s constitution.

Finally, in July 2006 director Nikolai Patrushev, director of the FSB and leader of Russia’s National Anti-terrorist Committee called on members of armed groups to lay down their arms and return to civilian life. In September 2006 the Russian State Duma passed a similar resolution. The deadline of this amnesty expired today.

Translated by David McDuff.