As expected, the London presentation of Boris Berezovsky’s documentary “An Assault on Russia” became the political scandal of the week. The ex-tycoon once again managed to prove his reputation of the high-class newsmaker and showed the long-expected denunciations on March 5, the anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s death. However, this time Berezovsky’s new documentary had hardly any new information.
A Novaya Gazeta journalist, Pavel Voloshin, who did an investigation two years ago, pointed out, “The materials which Berezovsky and the authors of his documentary used to call into question the official explanation of the Federal Security Service Ryazan maneuvers are two years old.” As Voloshin defines more precisely, the book of former employee of the Russian security services Litvinenko “FSB explodes Russia” was also published much later, with referrals to the Novaya Gazeta publications.
Meanwhile, Voloshin writes, responding to all the questions Novaya Gazeta posed two years ago, the first Russian national television network wrathfully snubbed the authors of the journalist investigation: “The ORT owner of that time Boris Berezovsky could not deal with investigations as he was establishing the power hierarchy in the country. That is why then they mercilessly retorted to us. After the presidential elections the topic was forgotten.”
It resumed only last autumn. Representatives of the TF-3 French television company, as they introduced themselves to Voloshin, got interested in the information of Nikita Chekulin, “former leader of a scientific-research institute of the Education Ministry”, who stated that the Roskonversvzryvtsentr company was selling explosives instead of recycling them. Besides, French documentary-shooters also got interested in the “Ryazan story” and asked Novaya Gazeta journalists to find them a “local conductor”. Pavel Voloshin acted as a “local conductor”, but he stated that he was completely unaware of the real purposes of the French journalists. As Voloshin says, “Who could know what is behind the two middle-aged foreigners in shabby rabbit-fur hats?”
Thus, Voloshin, the initiator of the topic, found out that French journalists shot a documentary for Berezovsky instead of a reel for Paris cable television from BBC journalists several days before the first night of the documentary in London.
Nonetheless, Novaya Gazeta has no claims to Boris Berezovsky, “The truth is good because it has no trade mark and it does not depend on political intrigues…. The rest weighs on Berezovsky’s conscience.”
However, Berezovsky never stated that his purpose is looking for the truth. Actually, the real objective of the London action is so to say applied.
Of course, the Kommersant paper that belongs to the former tycoon, noted that those who hoped to see at the London presentation a document signed by Vladimir Putin and proving involvement of the Federal Security Service in explosions of apartment buildings in Moscow were greatly disappointed. However, according to Putin’s major opponent, “the data provided in the documentary is enough to consider President Putin illegitimate.”
As the paper explains, the main idea of the documentary is extremely simple: If FSB really made an unsuccessful attempt to blast an apartment building in Ryazan, it gives every reason to believe that the Russian security services are also connected to other explosions of residential buildings, including the buildings in Moscow. If it was FSB that blew up the apartment buildings, “Putin’s coming to power is lit from another side now”.
As Berezovsky hopes, the documentary “may be a success in the West”, although it is hardly likely to be shown in Russia, which, according to its authors, can also be considered an “indirect evidence of involvement of the security services and Putin personally in this tragic story.”
The Vremya Novostei paper, run by the presidential administration informed on Berezovsky’s press conference and stressed the “Chechen-terrorist claims” of the General Prosecutor’s Office to the exiled tycoon. Now, the matter in question is not only the Dagestan intrusion of the Chechen guerrillas, but also kidnapping of General Shpigun. Besides, Berezovsky’s multiple participation in releasing hostages, in particular, British citizens Camilla Carr and Joe James, was also called in question; according to the Russian security service, Berezovsky feels so comfortable and self-confident in London due to this operation. According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, ransoming Chechen hostages, in fact Berezovsky financed Chechen field commanders; moreover, his investments to Chechnya had the same address.
The General Prosecutor’s Office stated that an anonymous witness confirmed “transference of 30 million rubles via Georgian Badri” for organizing an attack on Dagestan. At the same time, sources of Vremya Novostei in security services and among “well-known Chechens” state that the “mysterious witness” is Salman Raduev, Berezovsky’s old acquaintance. The paper reminds that back in 1996 after an attack on Kizlyar, Berezovsky ransomed soldiers of the Riot Police captured by Raduev. They also say when Raduev was arrested, he had a golden Rolex watch on his wrist, which was a Beezovsky’s personal gift.
As is known, the Makhachkala court sentenced Raduev to life imprisonment. After the sentence was appealed against to the Supreme Court, he was brought to Moscow, where representatives of security services offered him “something very enticing” in exchange to testifying against Berezovsky.
As the Vremya MN paper noted, neither Berezovsky nor the General Prosecutor’s Office are convincing in this story, “The sides are rhythmically exchanging strokes, taking no care of finding the truth.” In fact, information of the Federal Security Service on existence of documents that are said to prove Berezovsky’s funding Chechen guerrillas appeared right after the exiled tycoon promised to denounce the authorities.
Basing on all this Vremya MN makes the only possible conclusion: “Of all arts, the cinema is still the most important for us.”
Meanwhile, the Novye Izvestia paper, which is also controlled by Berezovsky, suggests its own salvation of the “anonymous witness” of the General Prosecutor’s Office on General Shpigun’s case.
According to a paper observer Valery Yakov, the witness in question is no one but Former Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, “There are lots of gloomy legends about his mysterious role in numerous trades on hostages; and there is hardly anyone who dealt with Shpigun’s fate more that him.”
Speaking seriously, according to Valery Yakov, the authorities use countercharges in order not to answer questions “Who is behind the Moscow explosions? And the main thing: why do all the power structures are so obstinately refusing to carry out a complete, objective, and independent investigation?”
Meanwhile, according to a Russian BBC Service correspondent Marina Gvozdievskaya, Berezovsky has no doubts that “all the Ryazan events are direct copying of what had happened in Moscow.” – cited from the Sovetskaya Rossia paper.
At the same time, Berezovsky makes a reservation, “I do not state that the Russian president ordered to explode apartment buildings in Moscow, Volgodensk, and Ryazan. I only state that he surely knew about all that. I do have this proof. He either knew about it, or he is trying to cover Patrushev.”
A BBC observer Tom de Vaal thinks that although Berezovsky’s documentary collected all the facts on explosions altogether, there is no direct connection between statements of former Roskonversvzryvtsentr acting director Nikita Chekulin and Moscow explosions. As Mr. De Vaal noted, “There are major political grounds here. Berezovsky has several times changed his attitude towards President Putin, and at present, he is Putin’s opponent. There will be no reaction but a denial of this statement.”
In fact, according to the press, FSB flatly refused to comment on statements of Berezovsky. Nonetheless, the scandalous documentary is already in Russia. But the hundred video-tapes that Duma deputy and a member of the Liberal Russia party Yury Rybakov tried to bring to Russia were confiscated at the St. Petersburg Pulkovo-2 airport customs. However, another 800 videotapes successfully passed the Sheremetievo customs in the luggage of another Liberal Russia leader, Sergei Yushenkov, who started handing them out to journalists and all who wanted to have them right at the airport.
Yushenko stated in his interview with the Izvestia paper, “We offer to Russian television channels to broadcast the documentary, but so far none agreed to transmit it.” If the Liberal Russia fails to convince television to broadcast the documentary, the party is ready to distribute the documentary through its regional branches and show the documentary in cinemas and video-salons.
Sergei Yushenko confirmed once again that the fact presented in the documentary are enough to start an impeachment procedure against the president in any country. However, the present Russian Duma is uninterested in objective investigation and that is why the leaders of the Liberal Russia intend to convey the materials on Moscow terrorist act to the European Parliament to “have them heard there”.
Beside, there is one more side of the medal. As Sergei Yushenko said in his interview with the Nezavisimaya Gazeta paper, a consequence of the Moscow, Volgodonsk, and Ryazan explosions was a secret order of the Russian president as of September 3, 1999 that became a basis for resuming the Chechen military operation. At the same time, in accordance with the Russian Constitution, there may be only three reasons for launching a war: if a war is officially announced, if an emergency situation or a martial law is announced. As is known, none of these conditions was observed. Thus, the present Chechen war much be considered completely illegitimate.
Besides, according to the press, the results of the recent meeting of Aslan Maskhadov’s emissary Akhmed Zakaev with international tribunal court on former Yugoslavia Ms. Carla del Ponte, should also be added to the aforementioned fact.
According to Novaya Gazeta famous British actress and human rights protector Vanessa Redgrave organized the meeting. Carla del Ponte invited Chechen representatives to the Hague court hall, where former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic is being trailed. Novaya Gazeta wrote, “They were very interested how it is possible to bring someone before the bar on accusations in crimes, committed on behalf of a state. Moreover, without taking the position into account.”
Akhmed Zakaev said with great satisfaction in his interview with Novaya Gazeta, “We asked several questions and received competent answers to them. Ms. Del Ponte still hopes that finally all who are guilty for crimes against humanity are to be punished irrespective of their rank or position.”
Zakaev was every more direct in his interview with an Izvestia correspondent, “If Vladimir Putin does not punish his generals, an international tribunal must punish him, as it is done with Milosevic now.”
According to Izvestia sources, besides talking with Ms. Del Ponte, Zakaev was also invited to participate in a plenary session of the European Parliament on March 14, where the Chechen problem is to be also discussed.
Izvestia has no doubts that the new international change in the Chechen topic is connected with activities of Boris Berezovsky. According to the paper, Zakaev and Berezovsky are tied with long-term friendship and that lately they have frequently met with each other.
From the standpoint of Izvestia experts, all the events of late marked with Berezovsky’s name fit a single scenario called “Elections are to be held soon in Russia”.
The paper writes that Berezovsky devoted the past year to a preparatory stage: he was forming an opposition against Putin inside the country and also never forgot to support anti-Putin viewpoint outside Russia.
The second stage that coincided with Putin’s second anniversary at helm was an “active forming abroad anticipations concerning the Russian leader and the regime he is forming.”
In Russia, where over a half of the population “have loyally approved of Putin for over two years” Berezovsky’s attempts are hardly likely to be a success. However, according to many appraisals, foreign sympathy, understanding, and liking of Russia may be exhausted soon.
The “September 11” effect turned to be very short: “Europe has again started to harshly reproach Russia for Chechnya. The US Department of State published an unprecedented tough report on violation of human rights in Russia.” Besides, the terms of establishing “The Twenty” of Russia and NATO, as well as terms of concluding another treaty instead the died ABM are becoming more vague with every day. Economic scandals and trade wars have started. Izvestia writes, “At this background Berezovsky’s activity is also growing.” Of course, the exiled tycoon has no chance to win the fight against Putin, however, Izvestia believes he has a chance to “embroil Russia with the western world”.
The Nezavisimaya Gazeta paper once again reminded that exactly six months ago, on the day of the US September tragedy, Vladimir Putin was the first head of the state who called George Bush and extended his condolences and support. Moreover, Russian support was real: “Russia rendered its air to the US air Forces. Russia did not say a word against US’s using aerodromes situated in the Middle Asian republics of the CIS. Russia rendered a serious military-technical support to the Northern Alliance. Russia rejected its military bases in Vietnam and Cuba.” And so on and so forth. What did Russia receive in exchange? No changes in estimating the Russia policy in Chechnya: according to Nezavisimaya Gazeta terrorists are still divided in “good guys” and “bad guys”. Russia has received no economic support, first of all it concerns oil prices. The west launched two trade wars, steel and chicken wars. The US connects the results of the latter to the long out of date Jackson-Vannik amendment. Finally, recently the Los Angeles Times published of a secret report of the US military department, in which Russia is listed among the seven states, against which the US admits using nuclear weapons.
Thus, the Russian authorities should have anticipated all that happened when they were choosing the radical pro-western way: Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes, “The Kremlin should no longer ignore the activities of the US and repeat that nothing is happening…. The image of the Russian president has been seriously attacked, and our country has neither force nor economic possibilities to adequately repulse this stroke.”
From the standpoint of the Vremya Novostei paper, it is not the published details of the US’s plan that seem to be the most threatening as the Russian military have never flattered themselves about “friendliness of the possible enemy”. According to the paper, what impresses the military much more is the fact of the “informational leakage”, which is actually a method used as a rule for exerting psychological pressure on the opponent.
The picture is especially gloomy if juxtapose this measure with NATO expansion to the east, US’s withdrawal from the ABM Treaty, and US’s rejection to judicially secure agreements on liquidation of nuclear weapons and so on. According to a “competent military source” of the paper, “we have an impression that we are being provoked, right at the moment when Russia actually started an unprecedented unilateral reduction of its nuclear arsenals.”
A number of “informed officials” stated commenting on the publication of the Los Angeles Times with the Izvestia paper that the “Pentagon declaration should be considered as an intention declaration rather than an evidence of the US’s readiness to use nuclear weapons against the listed countries today or in the future.”
According to expert appraisals, Russia found itself on the “black list” only because at present, the US expects no “unexpected development of the situation”, nonetheless, the US “cannot be sure that its relations with Russia will always be like this”.
Director of the Russian and Asian program of the Washington Center for defense research Nikolai Zlobin suggests the logic of the authors of the report to be understood, “despite their limited intellectual resource”. According to him, “The US connects the present improvement of relations with Moscow exclusively with the position of President Putin, which is not firmly supported by the Russian political elite.” This is the reason for everything, and it is no wonder that the US military are willing to “overprotect themselves”.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta, in turn, is apprehends that helpless on the foreign policy arena Russia will respond to the US escapade by “toughening screws inside the country in order to compensate the foreign policy losses.” First of all, this may be done in order to “keep up the status on the threshold of forthcoming presidential elections.” Besides, the authorities may do this in order to prove that they are able to control something, especially facing a foreign threat, currently demonstrated by the US.
Meanwhile, far from all countries a priori consider Russia helpless and humble. For instance, left wing Slovo weekly cites an anonymous “wise representative of the Russian military-industrial complex”, “At present we have no symmetrical response to the US threat. But if the government determines its intentions and allocates means, we will have a symmetrical answer in several years.” Slovo notes that the present plans of the military-industrial complex prove that the government has acquired this strategy: “Several year later, the economy will grow, the military budget will increase, and we will have the most upgraded weapons, we will modernize the army, and will be able to speak differently to our friends and opponents.” Naturally, all this is possible only on the basis of a “long-term cooperation with the US, NATO, and the west overall.”
As for Berezovsky, in these terms, he plays a role of a “new voice from behind the iron curtain” that separates him from Russia now. However, the escaped tycoon is full of plans and intentions: according to the Versia weekly, Berezovsky is ready to make large investments in media-structures of any former USSR republic, which is ready to “accept his informational concept”.
The rumor has it that at present Berezovsky’s right hand man is staying in Kishinev, “where he is studying a possibility of opening a large informational center that would fight against increasing ‘superpower’ trends in Russia.”
They say, ex-tycoon is satisfied with Moldova as this government of this republic has lobbies that oppose to closing with Russia. Besides, Berezovsky hopes that the geographic position of the republic will allow to “timely and quickly spread a certain periodical, which Berezovsky intends to establish in order to oppose to the Kremlin’s plans.”
In fact, no pre-election period in Russia can be without “Voice of Berezovsky”, even if it comes from Moldova….