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