Why is "The Family" of Yeltsin Being Blamed for the Apartment Bombings?
With Russia, you always have to ask the three age-old "K" questions: kto vinovat, komu vygodno and komu interesno -- "who is to blame, who profits, and who cares".
So when the word is out with John Dunlop's new book on the September 1999 apartment buildings that we "now know" who did the apartment buildings bombing, I'm still not sure, because not all the "K" questions are answered satsifactorily. Amy Knight, the premier expert on the KGB, reviews Dunlop's book for the New York Review of Books (that's a prelude and you'll have to pay $4.99 to read it there or, this being the Internet, read it at the Chechens' site -- but I'd recommend the payment, as the Chechen site tried to load a malicious URL on me that Kaspersky batted off). I'll need to read Dunlop's book all the way through, of course, but so far, I'm not buying the thesis I see explicated in Knight's review -- that "the Family" did it. That's because I think Putin and his pals did it all on their own, and have always and every where tried to displace the blame for this appalling act on others as part of a campaign to eradicate dissent thoroughly. Every person who has come near the investigation has ended up distracted, coopted, forced into emigration, arrested, murdered, killed.
First, let me say that regarding the apartment bombings, I've never pursued them as fanatically as some critics of the KGB and its successor the FSB under Putin (see above for what happens if you do). I'd like to think that as evil as they were and are, and as many millions of people they massacred under Lenin and Stalin and sometimes assassinate today, that the "organs" (as they are known) were not capable of killing so many of their own people. I felt that obsessing about the apartments was a little like becoming a "truther" about 9/11 -- thinking our own people, not terrorists did this atrocity.
In Putin's book, First Person, which I translated, Putin is asked by journalists about the bombing. He replies:
What?! Blowing up our own apartment buildings? You know, that is really…utter nonsense! It’s totally insane. No one in the Russian special services would be capable of such a crime against his own people.”
"Special" is what the Russians call their intelligence agencies.
And I tend to believe that statement, up to a point, or at least to say this: we don't have facts beyond a reasonable doubt to the contrary. If the fumbled Ryazan escapade is given as evidence -- partial license plates leading to the FSB; actual hexogen in the sacks, not sugar -- then as a long-time Russia watcher, I have to say: really, guys? The FSB is so clumsy that they can blow up two buildings in Moscow without leaving full finger-prints, but they mess up so hilariously in Ryazan? Was there someone else who needed to set *them* up?
And if other stories brought forward to point to the authorities themselves include a military intelligence (GRU) official calling up the liberal Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoy and warning him of a coming explosion, then did the GRU do it or did they distract from those who might be responsible? Borovoy wasn't able to get anyone to pay attention in Yeltsin's Security Council.
So let me take you through my reasoning to explain that I don't think it's the Family (Yeltsin's daughter, then-boyfriend and later husband, and others close to them) that ordered this atrocity; I don't think it's Berezovsky; although I think it might be Putin himself and those close to him, but we don't know.Inter-agency rivalry itself can be to blame for things like this; rogue agents who exploit lax oversight can be to blame. Some agents like to do things to please their bosses that they think their bosses might like (that's why many say Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated on Putin's birthday).
Look, we don't know who killed JFK, really, although I continue to wonder about the Oswald/Belarus/KGB connection, and we may never know. And we don't know who ordered hundreds of Muscovites to be massacred, either, and may never know.
Meanwhile, what we do know is that Putin is always and everywhere to distract from himself any accountability for anything bad; he even tries to make the Pussy Riot gals out to be antisemites and claims he wouldn't have jailed them for so long if it were up to him -- pretending that the Ministry of Justice and the courts are independent, which is of course absurd when you look at this top-down vertically-managed society.
KA CLEARS OUT THE NESTS
For a long time, it's been clear to me that Putin has been clearing up the last remaining nests of the Yeltsin-era liberals. They never posed any real threat to him -- but KGB agents like to be thorough in removing the last bit of resistance -- very thorough.
The mass marches in Moscow in the last year since the elections were in part led by Yeltsin-era liberals like Boris Nemtsov, who has been so villified in the official and the opposition press that he has almost no following left (and his leaked cell phone chats don't help improve his image), but really more by newer public figures like Navalny, a nationalist, and Udaltsov, a communist. Remember, at some of the marches, the Russians literally divided up into separate columns of liberals, communists/socialists, nationalists, etc.
The old Soviet-era dissidents were not leaders of these marches, even behind the scenes -- they might have reported about police brutality but they mainly worried about the nature of these new self-styled democrats. To be sure, they are now senior citizens, but actually are so dedicated that they are not too old to go to marches, like Ludmila Alexeyeva, leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group, or Sergei Kovalev, Sakharov's friend and the leader of Memorial Society to address the Soviet crimes against humanity and their legacy today -- and they sometimes do. Some other Soviet-era dissidents like Valeriya Novodovskaya and Konstantin Borovoy, again, expressed repeated qualms about the kind of people that protesters were allowing to lead them -- Navalny was chumming around with fascists in youth groups and people who demanded that Moscow "stop feeding" the Caucasus. Udaltsov would have been happy to keep Putin as an interrim leader until he could nationalize all industry and put in hard-line communists.
Putin is now dealing handily with any of these newer dissenters -- frame-ups, jail, beatings, intimidation of relatives to place pressure on activists, informal forced exile abroad through threats -- the usual KGB menu. It's working pretty well.
IN SOVIET RUSSIA, FACEBOOK POST LIKES *YOU*
LiveJournal and Facebook and Twitter will be left on so that the organs can scrape data to use to manipulate people, just as was done by the incumbent's campaign team and his rival in our own elections. When I asked Vadim Lavrusik, the community manager at Facebook, who happens to be a Russian, on his wall whether we could be certain that the Russian investors who have a rather large chunk of Facebook stock whether they could get on their hands on user data given how much protest leaders were using Facebook to run the marches when their LiveJournal pages wouldn't load anymore, he blocked me from that thread.
LiveJournal is an American-founded company sold to Russian entrepreneurs after it grew outdated and other platforms overtook it in popularity. Russian oligarchs related to Facebook aren't exactly anti-Putin. I have no evidence that Mark Zuckerberg, who has travelled to Russia to meet with his investors, would turn over user data to them but I worry about where the leaks might be. It's hard to even talk about this openly. When Lavrusik bragged that Facebook knew there were 71 million posts about the US elections on their platform -- a fact they knew because they search, scrape and store them -- I asked whether that information was used to manipulate elections, and whether Obama critics would find themselves blocked. I was then totally blocked from his feed -- he removed himself from my view as if he didn't exist. I hope others will keep asking this question.
But while the newer dissidents were fairly easy to disperse with strategic 15-day sentences that chilled the passion, beatings or longer sentences for leaders, the Yeltsin-era liberals were harder to get. These are more established people. They have better jobs, more income, more connections at home or abroad. They still write and publish and comment; they still go on talk shows on TV.
I've suggested that readers take a lighted candle and hold it under Julia Ioffe's piece on the Magnitsky Act and wait to see the purple pro-Kremlin prose shine through what appears to be an article in opposition to Putin. Ioffe was the first to tell us Putin was inevitable and the US should adjust to this in the highly-visible pages of Foreign Policy and other widely-read liberal publications and the air of inevitability almost seemed like it was going to stick until all those LiveJournalists and Twitterers began to turn out huge demonstrations against the election fraud. I never feld they would succeed and was really worried what would happen to them.
Ioffe succeeds in this piece, if you read between the lines, in making the following statements as if they were fact and not opinion about the case of Magnitsky, the representative of Browder's law firm who blew the whistle on Russian government corruption and wound up dead in pre-trial detention.
o William Browder, leader of the crusade for justice for Magnitsky, is a shady, wealthy guy whose grandfather was the head of the American Communist Party who got rich under Yeltsin under murky circumstances
o Browder hired people from the creepy John Ashcroft consulting firm -- boo, hiss! He was Bush's attorney general and to some, the bag man -- he crafted the hated Patriot Act.
o Browder gave up his American citizenship to move to the UK and take up British citizenship, so how can he call for US legislation?
o Browder praised Putin in his day, and cheered the arrest of Khodorkovsky, who is a crook who repented of his evil corruption while deservedly put in prison by Putin
And so on -- go read it with that candle and you'll see what I mean. The purpose of the article isn't to tell you about the Magnitsky Act, which passed in the House and now faces the Senate, where it might not pass or to tell the admittedly complicated story of Browder, who is doing the right thing by his dead colleague -- the purpose is to discredit the Russian opposition and their supporters abroad and Putin critics. Putin critics are rich guys who used to support him but became turncoats -- how can liberals trust them and how can anybody at all trust them!
WHO'S LEFT NEXT?
So who's left to resist Putin -- Ioffe herself, who is believed by many (but not me) to be a Putin critic, actually left Russia, her homeland, and now works at New Republic, bought out by a Silicon Valley tycoon. Well, there's Leonid Parfyonov, a thoughtful television producer who was removed from TV for his critical discussion and interviews on Chechnya. I thought he was among the best platform speakers during the marches. He's not on the talk shows so much anymore. Parfyonov has now been co-opted into the Presidential Council on Human Rights, a body that in fact has behaved sometimes independently (for show?) by doing things like criticizing the secondKhodorkovsky sentence or expressing concern about the new draconian bill on "treason against the motherland".
Just last week, this body was diluted by adding several dozen more members to bring it to 62; some of the most outspoken critics are now removed from it -- Ludmila Alexeyeva resigned; others removed include Svetlana Gannushkina, one of the great champions of the rights of refugees and non-Russian migrant labour in Russia and others who either left or weren't renewed. Mikhail Fedotov, who helped draft the Yeltsin-era press law that is now rather in tatters, remains trying to keep this boat afloat and optically independent, but there's always this question to ask: if you criticize a government's policy, say, on the cases of Magnitsky and Khodorkovsky, and they don't follow your advice, should you stay in their propaganda outlet that makes them appear liberal and keep meeting with them? Putin also made another reform to this group -- only an "executive body" within the larger group now will actually get to meet with him -- the rest won't. When Medvedev was president, they all met with him.
KORN CLEANS OUT THE NEST
Another group of both perestroika-era and Yeltsin-era liberals were kept alive around the Radio Liberty office in Moscow. Actually, Putin didn't have to hardly lift a finger there -- American bureaucrats urged to take cost-cutting measures in the era of the fiscal cliff ordered the summary dismissal of 40 people even before the Russian government attempted to close it down under new rules for foreign media and foreign organizations. These faithful employees who ran various broadcasts followed by the liberal intelligentsia came to work in the morning and were told they lost their jobs; just like in Silicon Valley's big IT firms, security guards appeared at their elbows with cardboard boxes and told them to immediately clean out their desks and come this way. Actually, I don't think they even got the cardboard boxes.Steve Korn justifies the dismissals and takes an upbeat tone; others, including Lev Roitman, one of those dismissed, take a far dimmer view.
This story is more complicated than it seems -- but part of that complication is that the "down-sizing" was recommended by a transition team, and on that team was journalist Masha Gessen. Gessen is a long-tim critical journalist -- critical of Chechnya under Yeltsin and critical of everything under Putin -- she is the author of Man Without a Face a recent book devastatingly critical of the autocrat. One of her key sources, Marina Salye, who had gone into seclusion after making allegations against Putin's corruption some years ago and kept mum, died of a heart attack right after the book came out.
Gessen was working for the nature magazine Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) when she wrote something a bit snide about Putin's much-ballyhooed flight with the cranes. Her editor fired her. Then Putin summoned both her and the editor (!) to his office, to her shock, and told the editor that he should put her back on the staff. Gessen described how she countered that she did not want to be hired on instruction from the president, as that would not appear independent. If she faced down Putin in person there, it's hard to believe that she has been coopted by Putin.
Yet by being appointed by RFE/RL to head a much smaller mainly digital team now, after dozens of liberals have been fired so outrageously and summarily, the gossipers' knives are out. To be sure, this has been explained by the need to cease medium-wave broadcasting in compliance with a new Russian law. Again, Putin doesn't have to lift a finger to accomplish what American bureaucrats and Russian gossips can accomplish on their own -- but there it is, mission accomplished.
HATCHET-JOB ON KGB CRITIC
Then there's Yevgeniya Albats -- a respected journalist and very knowledgeable critic of the KGB -- I also translated her book A State Within a State. She is also the editor of Novoye Vremya (New Times), and they are in financial trouble now like just about any other hard-copy newspaper in the world, even in Russia where people still avidly read books and papers on the metro.
So to do the hatchet job on Albats, enter Kevin Rothrock, the once-anonymous blogger at A Good Treaty who later confessed to being a former American Enterprise Institute (!) researcher, who skewers her utterly from his new perch to poison the well, Global Voices -- a perch I've discussed in the past as perfect for poisoning. Of course, he was busy getting this down on Twitter even before -- again, by letting his followers do the talking.
In this piece, while purporting merely to "provide the news" of what's happening in the Russian blogosphere, he makes sure we are left with this impression: Albats is a censor; Albats is a wealthy and outdated intelligent; Albats is charging for subscriptions in an era when people can blog for free; Albats is out of touch -- etc.
No matter that if you want critical journalism by full-time professional journalists and editors, you have to pay for it and that means sustaining a publication like Novoye Vremya which has every right to charge for content. You know, like Soros and the other backers of Global Voices pay for Rothrock's own job? Novoye Vremya can't exactly ask for a foreign grant these days, can they? If the Russian government wouldn't call them foreign spies and arrest them, Rothrock might sneer at them as rootless sell-outs even if the same foundations that pay for his salary foot the bill. It's hard to be a perfectly rooted and viable and appreciated opposition member in Rothrock's book -- there aren't any!
No matter that if an editor wants to leave out of their publication a notorious antisemite or Russian nationalist, that's called "editorial judgement", not censorship. You know, like Rothrock leaves all kinds of things out of his blog, as did his predecessors, about developments in Russia (I was astounded that during the height of all the marches with a zillion blogs flowing, a college student who occasionally wrote up some summaries was all they had at GV; then they brought in Rothrock after the movement was crushed).
No matter that the welter of blogs that don't load with a zillion pictures and comments can't make the point as well as a professional journal. Rothrock, a long-time pro-Putin propagandist, will pretend that they are the voice of experience and authenticity and any liberals, past or present, are out of touch. Under colour of writing "factually" about the opposition in Russia, he never misses an opportunity to caricature the critics of Putin in the absolute worst way, so that they look bad, and not Putin, the monster who puts punk rockers in prison for three years or lets businessmen and their lawyers languish in prison or even die.
THE FAMILY DID IT?
Dunlop is certainly credible as a long-time critic of Soviet and Russian leaders. Unlike Rothrock, he has no public record of stumping obviously for Putin. But the conclusion he comes to -- that The Family ordered the hit on the buildings and got Putin and his men to do the dirty deed -- in the end distracts from Putin himself. I think that somewhere in the food chain of information and analysis, something has gone wrong here.
As it happened, I had an opportunity through confluence of circumstances to talk to Valentin Yumashev and Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin's daughter, directly back in 2000. I translated Yeltsin's book Midnight Diaries, published in 2000, and his Struggle for Russia (1994). I looked them in the eyes and asked if they believed that the FSB had committed this atrocity of blowing up the buildings. Was it really possible for some Russian security agent to kill his own people? Perhaps it was some kind of rogue agents?
Neither Yumashev nor Tanya, who later married Yumashev, looked nervous, or guilty, or tried to change the subject or do anything that they might be expected to do if they had in fact ordered this horrible deed themselves. To be sure, at that time I didn't know that research might lead to suspect them of this, but I can only report what I saw -- they looked concerned and thoughtful, not guilty, and they didn't try to distract or move on from the topic. Yumashev, remember, was a journalist at the perestroika-era flagship liberal journal Ogonyok who had never been in government. Yeltsin's daughter was a privileged family member of an obkomovets, a regional Party secretary, but not near entrenched KGB levers of power in Moscow for most of her life. Say what you will about their Soviet-style venality, but they don't have the typical profiles for people who think up mass murder as a way to keep themselves in shopping money and get the country united.
So when I asked them if they thought their own FSB could have done this, neither of them flinched. Tanya didn't say much. Yumashev then added something important. "If it had happened even a few weeks later, I might have wondered if that were possible," he said. "But it happened during the time of the Stepashin bardak".
As we know from Wikipedia, in 1998 Yeltsin appointed Putin as director of the FSB, and he conducted a thorough reorganisation, which included the dismissal of most of the FSB's top personnel; he appointed Nikolai Patrushev as the head of FSB in 1999, and he was at the helm when the explosion occurred, and remained there until 2008 when he was transferred to the Security Council.
"Bardak" is a Russian word that means literally "whorehouse," but is used to mean "a mess". Sergei Stepashin, who had the military rank of Colonel General, was in charge of the Ministry of Interior, or police, a militarized institution in Russia; the MVD takes part in supppression of riots and they also had troops in Chechnya.Then he was made Prime Minister.
As Wikipedia tells us:
He held that office [MVD] from March 1998 to May 1999, when he was appointed and confirmed by parliament as prime minister. Yeltsin made it fairly clear when he appointed him Prime Minister that Stepashin would only hold the position temporarily, and he was replaced in August 1999 by future president Vladimir Putin.
Yeltsin, as you can see from the books, changed prime ministers like gloves, and of course shifting people around from job to job like that kept them off balance but kept staff demoralized as well.
In order to plan to blow up a building, you would need time, so you can't necessarily implicate someone physically in any position in September 1999, you have to look at the lead up time.
So there were two "bardak" problems in the Russian siloviki (strongmen) at the time in the "power ministries". First, Putin had left the FSB to become prime minister and turned over the helm to someone new, Patrushev. Then at the MVD, there was Stepashin, whom Yeltsin had considered as his successor as president, but ditched because he was said not be sufficiently enthusiastic about the Chechen war (Wikipedia says "citation needed" for that claim, and I can only agree -- I translated many texts from this era and studied it thoroughly and I don't recall that theory -- perhaps someone can comment).
Stepashin didn't rule over the MVD or the government as prime minister very long; when leaders change frequently agencies are not run in a disciplined manner and lots of stuff happens. Stepashin had previously served as director of what was then called the FSK, the counter-intelligence agency, from 1994-1995, so he had intelligence ties. What I drew from Yumashev's comment would then tend to indicate not that Stepashin ordered anything, but that because his oversight was lax, at a time when Patrushev was new in the other agency, the FSB, rogue agents could have gotten away with this explosion. Attention always goes to the FSB as the cloak-and-dagger sorts, but it was the MVD that controlled the roads through the gaishniki (traffic police)-- they could have let through vehicles with hexogen sacks in them; for that matter they could let vehicles out of plants with hexogen in them; they would let those vehicles come near apartment buildings.
One of the things I always marvelled at in Russia when I worked on the film Crime and Punishment produced by CBC is that the police had their little booths right inside the apartment complexes -- they were the security guards that an American housing complex would hire from the private sector. What does the MVD know about the explosions, is anyone asking? Inter-agency rivalry is notorious in Russia.
Then, there's Mikhail Barsukov, a regular military office turned KGB officer who came in after Stepashin, said by some to be a liberal put in charge of the FSB to reform it. That's what they always say. Maybe he was just making it to become more lean and mean. He was very good friends with Yeltsin's bodyguard, Korzhakov and did for Yeltsin during the White House rebellion in 1993 which was where Yeltsin's reputation as a liberal reformer began to get seriously tarnished. But Barsukov was removed from the position of the FSB after a year, and then given other positions by Yeltsin. He messed up one Chechen hostage crisis, then got caught with the cash for the Yeltsin campaign in the famous "Xerox box" caper and Yeltsin fired him. Then he in December 1998, Barsukov was appointed Chief Director for Military Inspection subordinate to the Security Council of Russia.
Trepashkin, the former FSB officer who was investigating the explosions says that at one point Barsukov told him to let a Chechen suspect go who was allegedly mixed up in a corrupt Moscow hotel that was said to be funding Chechen rebels. So is Barsukov the one to look at? He was at Grachev's birthday when the storm of Grozny was said to be planned. Oh, I have no idea. Let people paid to be investigative journalists or Russianologists do this job.
MY AUTHORS: NINE-FINGERED BORYA AND VOLODYA THE BANTAM-WEIGHT THUG
People are not going to like what I've written here. It looks like I might be saying that respected journalists or Sovietologists or others could be wrong and have been manipulated by Putin. And I'm saying this on the strength of The Family's two major operatives, and I translated Yeltsin's books.
But I get the same (low) rate per word to translate Yeltsin as I did his opponent Ligachev, to translate the works of Stalin or Lenin or Albats or to translate people's divorce papers or localization of online game dialogue. Translation is what I do; I'm only an amateur Kremlinologist and it's not even my main interest these days.
I spent two years of my life at the Committee to Protect Journalist, criticizing Yeltsin's handling of the Chechen war, which took a terrible toll on journalists who were murdered or kidnapped. I spent the next five years of my life after that criticizing Yeltsin and Putin for the Chechen wars and every other kind of human rights abuse. So I have no felt need to get The Family off the hook.
Meanwhile, when I translated Putin's book, my hair stood on end. There were the cultural things I didn't like -- the casual slur of a religious Jewish neighbour, and the change in the story even in the process of editing from saving a Barbie doll in the fire at the dacha, to saving a piece of jewelry which was a cross (East, not West, you see). But the incidents that really chilled me were Putin's casual flipping of a guy in the metro and breaking his arm, because he looked at him the wrong way, and his casual flipping of a guy at a bus stop just because he asked for a light. He is a bantam-weight thug. Then there was Putin's absolute resolute determination never, ever to allow international monitors of any kind into Chechnya or the same thing that happened to Kosovo would happen to Chechnya -- it would gain its independence. I was so concerned about the nature of this Mr. Putin -- who we didn't know much about -- that I sent the book Federal Express to then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright via an aide, urging her to read it on the plane as she flew to Moscow to meet him for the first time -- and I got back a note from the aide that she did. I think as a person with Czechoslovakia in her background, she already understand what she was dealing with.
In any event, I have to urge people to look harder. Yeltsin was a gruff Communist Party apparatchik who worked his way up to Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg) Party leaderk, and presided over the bulldozing of the Ipatiev House where the Tsar's family were massacred. He certainly had the common touch; he was missing one finger on his hand from a machine-lathe accident when he worked in a factory in his youth. But he was also somebody, like the more sophisticated Gorbachev and Shevardnadze, who felt that he couldn't take it any more under the stagnation of Brezhnev's communism. Whatever his corruption, Yeltsin did free the press and free entrepreneurial business on his watch, and did defeat the reactionary coup plotters' attempt. Putin hasn't freed anything.
To be sure, as a man of power, I didn't expect Yeltsin to be a full-fledged hero in Russia, even after he stood on the tank. Before that time, when he was speaker of the house (chairman of the Congress of People's Deputies of the RSFSR), I happened to meet him as part of a delegation from the International Helsinki Federation. While Yuri Orlov, the former prisoner of conscience and physicist (whose visa was delayed but whom we finally managed to get in the delegation), was reading a list of remaining political prisoners and other problems even in late Gorbachev-era perestroika, Yeltsin looked around the room. He had what you would call charisma or animal magnetism, that's how people like him succeed. He stared down every one on the room -- when they got the Yeltsin stare, they averted their eyes. I didn't. I kept my gaze. I wanted to win that little game. I did. He looked away first.
Later, when Yeltsin's book came out in Russian -- with revisions after the version I translated -- he changed some words. And although he had called Ion Andronov, a notorious pro-regime apologist in the Soviet era, by a word that meant "fascist" or "fascistic," he removed that and softened it to "militant". Unexpectedly, I found myself as a target of a libel lawsuit over this book because in Russia, translators are not exempt from responsibility for a text. So my good name was about to be ruined, because I was accused of mistranslating a word from Russian that said "militant" and not "fascist". "Prove that you are not a camel," is how I explained it in a comment to Moscow News. What could I do but fax a copy of the page of the original manuscript to the court? People still didn't believe me, but I made a deposition to Andronov's lawyer. Then he got in touch with the half dozen or more other translators around the world, from French to Japanese. They all had the same Russian manuscript that I had, with the same word that wasn't "militant" but "fascistic". Case closed. But after that, I had trouble getting a visa to Russia.
I don't believe that either Yumashev or his later wife, Tanya, Yeltsin's daughter, gave this order to bomb innocent people in apartment buildings. Nor did Voloshin, the balding apparatchik who "devoured work" who remained only an apparatchik, really, although with a lot of power; ultimately he left government to go into business. I don't think any of these three even created a theory that concoction of terror would help consolidate the country. You didn't need to consolidate the country that way; it was already consolidated against Chechnya. That's what I wish people would think about more -- the overall setting of Russia at the time.
GASOLINE AND GENERALS
In the weeks before the August 1999 Dagestan invasion of the Chechen rebels that proved later as the excuse for Putin to launch the second war in Chechnya early in his term, Sergei Kovalev sent out an urgent appeal -- there was a huge build-up of Russian soldiers in the area, even generals. They were able to get gasoline in a market with shortages -- how? Kovalev was very worried about what might happen in the coming weeks. I went and spoke to the US ambassador to the OSCE talks at the time and other US officials gave them all of Kovalev's concerns. While understanding, they didn't take it that seriously. That the Chechen incursion into Dagestan seems to have had some help from the organs or maybe have been concocted seems evident to me from that detail about the gasoline and the generals in the area. But I don't know. I wasn't there. I trust those who were and who have raised questions.
The finger is also pointed at Berezovsky for the apartment explosions. George Soros wrote in one of his books that once when he was left alone in a fancy bar in Berezovsky's lavish home, he was actually frightened that he might be murdered. I met Berezovsky only very briefly when he was at a reception in New York but I know what he means. Even so, I don't think because people look scary that they may be capable of ordering massacres. To be sure, he paid large ransoms to get out some journalists and tried to finance a factory to provide jobs to try to buy out the Chechens from violence and seemed to have Chechens on his payroll where the fix didn't stay in. They kidnappers were never arrested and floated around with their loot threatening and killing other people.
WHERE TO LOOK
In any event, I think the place to look further isn't Yeltsin's family members, associates, or Berezovsky, who fell out with Putin. While "the Family" version of this story still ends up implicating Putin down the line, the Dunlop book and more importantly -- all the commentary about it -- including Ken Roth, who tweeted about the book review -- ends up shifting the stare back to Yeltin's people.You know, those lousy liberals who sold off the country to evil Western imperialists and impoverished the people?
I think the place to look is Putin himself. He's in charge there. Don't let him distract you.