8 thoughts on “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power”

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    Еще один аспект, в котором сомневался Трепашкин, был вопросом мотива.

    «Обычно это очень легко найти мотив» объяснил он «или деньги или ненависть или ревность, но что привело чеченцев к этим терактам? Очень мало людей думали об этом».

    С одной точки зрения это, может быть, понятно. Антипатия к чеченцам сидит очень глубоко в русском обществе и стала еще глубже во время сепаратистской войны девяностых годов. Невыразимые злодеяния совершили обе стороны в течение этого конфликта, и чеченские повстанцы были готовы и к войне на территории России и к действиям против мирных граждан . Но эта война окончилась в 1997 тем, что Борис Ельцин подписал договор, признавший автономию Чечни.

    «Так что, зачем?» продолжал Трепашкин «Зачем хотели бы чеченцы спровоцировать российское государство, когда уже достигли всего, за что воевали?»

    Кое-что еще мешало бывшему уголовному следователю: состав нового российского правительства.

    В начале августа 1999 – за несколько недель до первого взрыва в Буйнакске – Президент Ельцин назначил своего третьего премьер-министра за период менее трех месяцев. Это был небольшой человек, без чувства юмора, почти неизвестный российской общественности, его звали Владимир Путин.

    Он был так неизвестен, потому что, несколько лет назад, Путин был еще одним средним офицером КГБ/ФСБ, трудившимся незаметно. Ð’ 1996 Путину дали место в Управлении делами Президента – ключевое управление в аппарате Ельцина, которое дало Путину рычаги, с помощью которых он мог оказать или не оказать услуги инсайдерам в Кремле. Как видно, он хорошо использовал открывшиеся возможности: в течение трех следующих лет, Путина повысили до заместителя руководителя Администрации президента, а тогда до директора ФСБ, а теперь до премьер-министра.

    Но, хотя Путин еще был малоизвестным общей публике в Сентябре 1999, Михаил Трепашкин уже был хорошо знакомым с ним. Когда скандал УРПО стал публичным, Путин был директором ФСБ и лично уволил Александра Литвиненко за то, что он привлек внимание общесвенности. «Я уволил Литвиненко, потому что офицеры ФСБ не должны устраивать пресс-конференции и не должны делать внутренние скандалы публичными.»

    А в равной степени вызвало тревогу Трепашкина то, что наследником Путина на посту директора ФСБ стал Николай Патрушев. В должности начальника Управления собственной безопасности ФСБ, сам Патрушев освободил Трепашкина от обязанности следователя дела Банка Солди, и он был одним из тех правительственных чиновников, которые наиболее страстно доказывали чеченскую связь с взрывами жилых домов.

    «Так что эта динамика была заметна» сказал Трепашкин «и было правительство, способствующее ей. За этим стоят чеченцы, так что теперь нам надо справиться с чеченцами»

    Но тогда что-то очень странное произошло в спокойном провинциальном городе Рязань, находившимся в 120 милях на юго-востоке от Москвы.

    Благодаря состоянию повышенной бдительности, царящему в стране, несколько жителей 14/16 Новоселовой ул. в Рязани заметили белый Жигули подъехавший к их дому вечером 22 сентября. Людей охватила паника, когда они увидели двух мужчин, которые вынесли несколько больших мешков из багажника машины и перенесли их в подвал после чего быстро уехали. Жители позвонили в милицию.

    Ð’ подвале нашли три белых мешка весом около 50 килограмм каждый, подсоединенных к детонатору и взрывному таймеру. Пока милиция быстро эвакуировали всех из дома, позвонили местному эксперту ФСБ по взрывчатым веществам; он установил, что мешки содержали RDX – взрывчатое вещество достаточно мощное, чтобы снести целый дом. Выставили блокпосты на всех дорогах из Рязани, и началась огромная охота на Жигули и его водителей.

    К следующему дню событие в Рязани стало известным по всей России. Премьер-министр Путин, поблагодарил жителей за проявленную бдительность, пока министр внутренних дел хвалил недавние улучшения в работе органов безопасности «как, например, предотвращение взрыва дома в Рязани».

    Все так закончилось бы, может быть, только вот этот вечер двух из подозреваемых задержали. К удивлению местных властей оба предъявили удостоверения ФСБ. Вскоре позвонили из штаб-квартиры ФСБ в Москве и сказали, чтобы их освободили.

    На следующее утро директор ФСБ Патрушев выступил по телевидению, чтобы сообщить совсем новую версию событий в Рязани.

    Случай в 14/16 Новослевой ул., объяснил он, не был неуспешным терактом, а скорее «тренировкой» ФСБ, чтобы проверить бдительность общества. Он заявил, что в мешках были не взрывчатые вещества, а обычный домашний сахар.

    Противоречия в версии ФСБ были многочисленными. Как сопоставить утверждения штаб-квартиры ФСБ о мешках сахара с анализом местной ФСБ, который нашел RDX? Если была на самом деле тренировка, почему не сообщили местной ФСБ досрочно, или почему Патрушев сам не говорил об этом в течение тех полутора дней, пока ловили террористов? К тому же, почему взрывы в жилых домах сразу прекратились после Рязани? Если бы теракты были действительно устроенными чеченскими террористами, тогда, несомненно, унижение ФСБ в Рязани вдохновило бы их продолжать свои действия.

    Но время таких вопросов уже истекло. Пока Премьер-министр Путин во время своего выступления вечером 23 сентября, хвалил жителей Рязани за бдительность, российские военные самолеты стали бомбить Грозный – столицу Чечни. Через несколько дней российские батальоны бронетехники вошли в Чечню, и Вторая чеченская война началась.

    После этого события стали развиваться очень быстро. Во время новогоднего выступления 31 декабря 1999 Борис Ельцин потряс страну, заявив, что уходит с поста, и решение вступает в силу немедленно. Таким образом, Владимир Путин стал действующим президентом до того, что состоятся новые выборы. И вместо того, чтобы состоятся летом, как сначала было запланировано, выборы были назначены через десять недель. Конкурентам Путина осталось мало времени подготовиться.

    В ответ на президентский опрос в августе 1999, Путин имел менее двух процентов голосов. В марте 2000, благодаря своей стратегии тотальной войны в Чечне увеличил свою популярность и был избран президентом с 53 процентами голосов. Правление Владимира Путина началось, и Россия никогда не будет такой как прежде.

    На нашей следующей встрече, Трепашкин меня пригласил к себе домой. Это меня немного удивило – мне сказали что так безопаснее, Трепашкин редко приводит посетителей домой – но, по-моему, он считал, что все его враги все-таки знают, где он живет.

    В течении нескольких часов после взрыва на Улице Гурьянова, ФСБ выпустила эскиз подозреваемого, по описанию управляющего дома. Но вскоре, и без всякого объяснения, этот эскиз заменили описание совершенно другого человека, которого давно опознали как Ачемезa Гочияевa, небольшого бизнесменa из Черкессии, сразу сбежавшего и ушедшего в подполье. Весной 2002-го года, Александр Литвиненко и его напарник выследили Гочияева в отдалённом краю Грузии, где, через посредника, он упорно настаивал что ФСБ его подставила и он сбежал только потому что был уверен его убьют.

    Личность человека на первом эскизе ещё больше заинтересовала Трепашкина, когда изучая объемное дело ФСБ о взрыве на Улице Гурьянова, он нигде не мог найти её копии. В конце концов он начал рассматривать архивы газет в надежде что одна из них напечатала этот эскиз до того как ФСБ успела остановить их распространение. И нашёл.

    На рисунке был изображён мужчина 30 с чем-то лет, с квадратной челюстью, тёмными волосами и в очках. Трепашкин был уверен, что он его знал, и что он его даже арестовал 8 лет назад. Он полагал, что это было изображение Владимира Романовича, агента ФСБ который подобрал людей в состав автофургона c электронным наблюдением для банды Радуева во время грабежа банка Солди.

    Изначальная мысль Трепашкина была найти Романовича и постараться убедить его раскрыть своё участие во взрывах домов. Это оказалось бесполезным. Насколько Трепашкин мог выяснить, Романович уехал из России на Кипр и летом 2000-го года, его сбила машина, которая быстро скрылась, Романович скончался.

    Трепашкин затем нашёл изначальный источник эскиза ⎯ управляющего дома на Улице Гурьянова.

    «Я показал ему эскиз Романовича,» сказал Трепашкин, сидя в своей гостинной, «и он мне сказал что тот был составлен правильно, точно как он описал его милиции. Но затем они отвезли его на Лубянку где они показали емy эскиз Гочияева и настаивали что это и был мужчина которого он видел.

    С этим ошеломляющим известием, Трепашкин собирался удивить власти. ФСБ к этому времени уже давно опубликовало имена девяти человек, которые якобы были ответственны за взрывы в Москве и во Волгодонске. Они же были предлогом для новой войны с Чечнёй, хотя ни один из подозреваемых не был Чеченцем. Согласно сообщениям, к лету 2003-го года, пятеро из них были мертвы, двое были на свободе, и судебный процесс ещё двоих был назначен на Октябрь. Как адвокат Татьяны Морозовой, Трепашкин собирался присутствовать в суде и представить эскиз Романовича как улику для оправдания.

    Он принял дополнительную предосторожность. Перед началом суда, встретился с Игорем Корольковым, журналистом независимого журнала Московские Новости и в деталях описал отношение Романовича к делу.

    «Он сказал, ‘если они до меня доберутся, хотя бы все будут знать почему,’» Корольков разъяснил. «Он был напуган и напряжён, потому что я думал он уже знал, что за ним идут.»

    Конечно же, через короткое время после встречи с Корольковым, власти забрали Трепашкина. Пока он находился под арестом, ФСБ ещё раз провелa обыск в его квартире, на этот раз при помощи целого автобуса агентов. Я понимаю что для соседей это было очень увлекательно,» сказал Трепашкин смеясь, «самое большое происшествие здесь за долгое время.»

    Они его задержали по старой запасной причине ФСБ ⎯ владение оружием без лицензии ⎯ но судья, очевидно знакомый с этим клише, сразу же отверг обвинения. Прокуроры тогда вернулись к обвинениям Трепашкина, которые рассматривались еще со времени предыдущего обыска, за два года до этого, хранение секретных документов, которые, он утверждает, ему подложили. Этого было не много, но достаточно. После закрытого суда, Трепашкина приговорили к четырём годам тюрьмы за неправильное обращение с классифицированным материалом и отослали в тюремный лагерь на Урал.

    В его отсутствии, двоих мужчин, которых судили за взрывы жилых домов, обвинили и приговорили к пожизненному заключению. Объявляя дело официально закрытым, правительство приказало ФСБ запечатать все следственные материалы по делу на следующие семьдесят пять лет.

    Мой последний вопрос к Михаилу Трепашкину был, в какой-то степени бессмысленным.

    Мы стояли на тротуаре около его корпуса, и я его спросил, если, смотреть на ход его жизни за последние пятнадцать лет, изменил ли он что-нибудь.

    Вопрос был бессмысленным, потому что люди в ситуации Трепашкина, которые боролись с властями и проиграли, почти без исключения скажут, нет: в поисках правосудия, свободы, или в стремлении изменить общества к лучшему, они объясняют, они бы сделали всё так же заново. Люди в таких ситуациях говорят это себе, чтобы дать значение своим мучениям.

    Вместо этого, Трепашкин издал короткий смешок и улыбнулся, как умеет только он.

    «Да,» сказал он, «я бы много чего изменил. Сейчас я вижу, что доверчивость один из моих недостатков. Я всегда думал, что не сама система, а только несколько людей создают проблемы. Даже когда я был в тюрьме, я никогда не верил, что Путин мог на самом деле стоять за этим. Я всегда думал что, как только он узнает, меня немедленно выпустят.» Трепашкин прекратил улыбаться и пожал широкими плечами. «Так, я догадываюсь, определённая наивность привела меня к ошибкам.»

    Я не был полностью в этом уверен. Я подозревал что его «недостаток», помимо наивности, заключался на самом деле в старинном ⎯ если даже не в средневековом ⎯ чувстве преданности. Во время нашей первой встречи, Трепашкин дал мне копию своего резюме, которое состояло из шестнадцати страниц, и первое что ударило мне в глаза, было то, как он выделил свои многочисленные награды и похвалы за все годы службы государству: как специалист морского флота, как офицер КГБ, как следователь ФСБ. Как бы необычно или старомодно это не было, он верил по-настоящему. Как ещё можно объяснить годы, который он провел как верный своему долгу следователь, тщательно строя дела против организованных синдикатов или продажных чиновников, и в то же время упорно отрицая признание того, что в новой России, сами воры всем и заправляли?

    Конечно же, это чувство неизменной преданности и парализовало Трепашкина, оно же и предотвратило его от познания своих «ошибок», от возможности изменить свою жизнь и встать подальше от неприятностей. Что касается нашего перемещения из квартиры Трепашкина на улицу, то даже это было хорошим свидетельством его упрямства, его жена вернулась раньше чем мы думали, и узнав что ее муж разговаривает с западным журналистом была так разгневана, что немедленно выгнала нас на улицу.
    «Ну, что поделаешь?» прошептал Трепашкин, когда мы уходили, будто он не мог ничего предпринять.

    Но возможно резкости его жены тогда ⎯ 25-го Сентября ⎯ была другая причина. В тот день, Трепашкин собирался идти на Пушкинскую Площадь, чтобы встретиться с небольшой группой сторонников, где в 6 часов они бы провели демонстрацию с требованием нового следствия взрывов. «Тебе тоже следует прийти», сказал он со своей обычной улыбкой. «Может интересно будет».

    За пять лет, с того времени когда Трепашкина посадили, в России произошло много перемен ⎯ и ни одна из них не была особо благоприятной для человека в его ситуации. В Марте 2004-го года, Владимира Путина избрали на второй срок президентства с 71-им процентом голосов, и он распорядился более жестко ограничить политическую свободу и свободу слова. В Октябре 2006-го года, в лифте своего дома, застрелили Анну Политковскую, ведущую журналистку России, которая в значительной степени писала о тёмных связях между ФСБ и Чеченскими «террористами». На следующий месяц, пришла очередь удалить Александра Литвиненко.

    И возможно самое большое расстройство ⎯ Русский народ в этом не видел больших причин для беспокойства. Наоборот, с экономикой, процветающей за счёт потока нефтедолларов, большинство были довольны образом Путина как сильного человека, и его всё более и более воинственным расположением духа по отношению к окружающему миру, передававшему дуновение возвратившейся сверхдержавы.

    Этот образ был подходяще заснят в Мае 2008-го года, когда Путин, которому конституция запрещает избираться президентом на третий срок (хотя он остался в кабинете в роли премьер министра), официально передал вожжи своему лично выбранному наследнику, Дмитрию Медведеву. На этот случай, оба из них были в похожих черных куртках, Медведев в джинсах, важно проходя через Красную Площадь, они выглядели не как главы государства а скорей как пара гангстеров. Даже свирепое вторжение России в Грузию в Августе 2008-го года, акт, который был единогласно осуждён на Западе, породило новую вспышку в Русской национальной гордости, новый взлёт популярности Путина.

    Может тогда и не удивительно, что митинг на Пушкинской Площади в тот вечер был довольно жалким зрелищем. Помимо Трепашкина и его самых близких помощников, присутствовало, может тридцать человек. Многие из них старики, которые потеряли родственников при взрывах, они, молча, стояли на тротуаре, держа в руках плакаты или выцветшие фотографии своих погибших. Этот небольшой кружок стоял под надзором восьми милиционеров в форме ⎯ и скорее всего нескольких других в гражданском, ⎯ но это казалось совсем не обязательно. Из огромных толп проходящих мимо в час пик, мало кто дважды посмотрел на протестующих.

    Глядя на Трепашкина в тот вечер, казалось, что может существовать другое объяснение вопросу, почему он ещё был жив, а люди как Литвиненко и Политковская были мертвы. От части, без сомнения, потому что Трепашкин старался не показывать указательным пальцем прямо на Путина, или на кого-либо ещё в связи со взрывами домов. Это подходит его складу ума, как криминальный следователь: ты только обвиняешь на основании фактов, то, что можно узнать и проверить.

    И конечно же другая часть причины заключается в его одностороннем сосредоточии на взрывах домов, в том, что он относиться к этому делу с тем же упорством с каким он отнёсся к делу грабежа банка Солди. В этом и состояла проблема Литвиненко и Политковской: они обвинили стольких членов правящего круга России, что обеспечили безопасность своих врагов их количеством. Для Трепашкина, кроме взорванных домов, больше ничего не существовало, и если бы его убили, вся Россия бы знала почему.

    Ирония судьбы, состоит в том, что чем дальше он двигает это дело, чем больше он требует публичного расследования, Трепашкин может, движет себя ближе и ближе к уничтожению. Пока люди стоящие за взрывами уверены, что они выиграли, или хотя бы что они достаточно захоронили прошлое, он в относительной безопасности. Когда люди начнут брать его листовки, тогда опасность возрастет.

    Этот день возможно быстро приближается. В ходе экономического кризиса прошлого года немногие страны пострадали больше России, и почти каждый день приносит новые народные протесты: против олигархов, против политики, и всё больше против самого Путина. Сейчас уже может, осталось недолго, когда Русский народ спросит себя, как это всё началось и вспомнит ужасные происшествия Сентября 1999-го года.

    Но тот вечер на Пушкинской Площади не стал таким днём. В тот вечер толпы ещё по-настоящему верили в возрождение России, торопясь мимо Трепашкина к метро и домой, торопясь к светлому, блестящему будущему, которое пообещал им их правитель.

    СКОТТ АНДЕРСОН журналист и автор, который передавал из горячих точек по всему миру.

    English text:

    Putin: The dark rise to power (the full text of article of GQ magazine banned in Russia)
    Publication time: 6 September 2009, 13:09

    Ten years ago this month, Russia was rocked by a series of mysterious apartment bombings that left hundreds dead. It was by riding the ensuing wave of fear and terror that a then largely unknown Vladimir Putin rose to become the most powerful man in the country. But there were questions about the nature of those bombings – and disturbing evidence that the perpetrators might actually have been working for the Russian government. In the years since then, the people who had been questioning the official version of events began one by one to go silent or even turn up dead. Except one man. Scott Anderson finds him.

    The first building to be hit was the barracks in Buynaksk housing Russian soldiers and their families. It was a nondescript five-story building perched on the outskirts of town, and when the enormous truck bomb went off late on the night of September 4, 01999, the floors pancaked onto each other until the building was reduced to a pile of burning rubble. In that rubble were the bodies of sixty-four people – men, women, and children.

    In the predawn hours of last September 13, I left my hotel in central Moscow and made for a working-class neighborhood on the city’s southern outskirts.

    It had been twelve years since I’d been in the Russian capital. Everywhere, new glass-and-steel buildings had gone up, the skyline was studded with construction cranes, and even at 4 A.M., the garish casinos aroudn Pushkin Square were going full tilt and Tverskaya Street was clogged with late-model SUVs and BMW sedans. The drive was a jarring glimpse at the colossal transformation that Russia, its economy turbocharged by petrodollars, had undergone in the nine years since Vladimir Putin came to power.

    But my journey that morning was to a place in “old” Moscow, to a small park where a drab nine-story apartment building known as 6/3 Kashirskoye Highway had once stood. At 5:03 on the morning of September 13, 01999 – exactly nine years prior to my visit – 6/3 Kashirskoye had been blasted apart by a bomb secreted in its basement; 121 of its residents had died while they slept. That explosion, coming nine days after the one in Buynaksk, was the third of what would be four apartment-building bombings in Russia over a twelve-day span that September, leaving some 300 citizens dead and the nation in panic; it was among the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in the world until September 11. Blaming the bombings on terrorists from Chechnya, Russia’s newly appointed prime minister, Vladimir Putin, ordered a scorched-earth offensive into the breakaway republic. On the success of that offensive, the previously unknown Putin became a national hero and swiftly assumed complete control of the Russian state. It is a control he continues to exert today.

    Where 6/3 Kashirskoye had stood there was now an orderly grid of well-tended flower beds. These surrounded a stone monument engraved with the names of the dead and topped by a Russian Orthodox cross. For the bombing’s ninth anniversary, three or four local journalists had shown up, discreetly watched over by a couple of policemen in a nearby squad car, but there really wasn’t much for anyone to do. Shortly after 5 A.M., a cluster of perhaps two dozen people – most of them young, relatives of the dead, presumably – trooped up to place candles and red carnations at the foot of the monument, but they retreated as quickly as they had appeared. The only other visitors that morning were two elderly men who had witnessed the bombing and who dutifully related for the television cameras how terrible it had been, such a shock.

    I saw that one of the old men became quite emotional as he stood before the monument, repeatedly brushing at his cheeks to wipe away tears. Several times he turned and walked purposefully away, as if willing himself to leave, but he never got very far. He would linger by the trees at the edge of the park and then inevitably make a slow return to the shrine. Finally, I approached him.

    I lived very close to here, he said, and I was awoken by the sound, I came rushing over and… He was a big man, a former sailor, and he waved his hands helplessly over the flower beds. Nothing. Nothing. They pulled a young boy and his dog out. That was all. Everyone else was already dead.

    But as it turned out, the old man had a more personal connection to the tragedy. His daughter, son-in-law, and grandson had lived at 6/3 Kashirskoye, and they had all perished that morning, too. Leading me up to the monument, he pointed out their names in the stone, and desperately brushed at his eyes again. Then he angrily whispered: They say it was the Chechens who did this, but that is a lie. It was Putin’s people. Everyone knows that. No one wants to talk about it, but everyone knows that.

    It is a riddle that lies at the very heart of the modern Russian state, one that remains unsolved to this day. In the awful events of September 01999, did Russia find its avenging angel in Vladimir Putin, the proverbial man of action who crushed his nation’s attackers and led his people out of a time of crisis? Or was that crisis actually manufactured to benefit Putin, a scheme by Russia’s secret police to bring one of their own to power? What makes this question important is that absent the bombings of September 01999 and all that transpired as a result, it is hard to conceive of any scenario whereby Putin would hold the position he enjoys today: a player on the global stage, a ruler of one of the most powerful nations on earth.

    It is peculiar, then, how few people outside russia seem to have wanted that question answered. Several intelligence agencies are believed to have conducted investigations into the apartment bombings, but none have released their findings. Very few American lawmakers have shown an interest in the bombings. In 02003, John McCain declared in Congress that there remain credible allegations that Russia’s FSB [Federal Security Service] had a hand in carrying out these attacks. But otherwise, neither the United States government nor the American media have ever shown much inclination to explore the matter.

    This apparent disinterest now extends into Russia as well. Immediately after the bombings, a broad spectrum of Russian society publicly cast doubt on the government’s version of events. Those voices have now gone silent one by one. In recent years, a number of journalists who investigated the incidents have been murdered – or have died under suspicious circumstances – as have two members of Parliament who sat on a commission of inquiry. In the meantime, it seems that most everyone whose account of the attacks ran counter to the government’s version now either refuses to speak, has recanted his earlier statements, or is dead.

    During my time in Russia this past September, I approached a number of individuals – journalists, lawyers, human-rights investigators – who had been involved in the search for answers. Many declined to speak with me altogether. Others begrudgingly did so but largely confined their statements to a recitation of the known inconsistencies in the case; if pressed for an opinion, they allowed only that the matter remained “controversial.” even the old man in Kashirskoye park ultimately underscored the air of unease that hovers over the topic. After readily agreeing to a second meeting, at which he promised to introduce me to other victims’ families who doubted the government’s account, he had a change of heart.

    I can’t do it, he said when he called me back a few days later. I spoke to my wife and my boss, and they both said that if I meet with you, I will be finished.

    I was curious what he meant by “finished,” but the old sailor hung up before I could ask.

    No doubt part of this reticence stemmed from recalling the fate of the man who made proving the conspiracy behind the bombings a personal crusade: Alexander Litvinenko. From his London exile, the rogue former KGB officer had waged a relentless media campaign against the Putin regime, accusing it of all manner of crimes and corruption – and most especially of having orchestrated the apartment-building attacks.

    In November 02006, in a case that riveted the world’s attention, Litvinenko was slipped a lethal dose of radioactive polonium, apparently during a meeting with two former Russian intelligence agents in a London hotel bar. Before the poison killed LItvinenko – it took an agonizing twenty-three days – he signed a statement placing the blame for his murder squarely at Putin’s feet.

    But Litvinenko had not worked alone on the apartment-bombing case. Several years before his murder, he had enlisted another ex-KGB agent in his search for answers, a former criminal investigator named Mikhail Trepashkin. The two men had a rather complicated personal history – in fact, back in the ’90s, one allegedly had been dispatched to assassinate the other – but it had actually been Trepashkin, working on the ground in Russia, who had uncovered many of the disturbing facts in the case.

    Trepashkin had also run afoul of the authorities. In 02003 he had been shipped off to a squalid prison camp in the Ural Mountains for four years. By the time of my visit to Moscow last year, however, he was out on the streets again.

    Through an intermediary, I learned Trepashkin had two young daughters, as well as a wife who desperately wanted him to stay out of politics; combining these factors with his recent prison stint and the murder of his former colleague, it seemed likely that my approach to him would go as badly as had my conversations with other former dissenters.

    Oh, he’ll talk, the intermediary assured me. The only way they’ll stop Trepashkin is by killing him.

    On September 9, five days after the blast in Buynaksk, the bombers struck Moscow. This time it was an eight-story apartment building on Guryanova Street, in a working-class neighborhood in the city’s southeast. Rather than a truck bomb, the device had been stashed on the building’s ground floor, but the result was virtually identical; the explosion brought down all eight floors and killed ninety-four residents as they slept.

    It was with Guryanova Street that the general alarm first went out. Within hours a number of Russian-government officials strongly suggested that terrorists from Chechnya were responsible, and the nation was sent into a state of high alert. As thousands of police fanned out to question – and in several hundred cases, to arrest – anyone resembling a Chechen, residents of apartment buildings throughout Russia organized themselves into neighborhood-watch patrols. Calls for retaliation rose from all political quarters.

    At Trepashkin’s request, our first meeting took place at a crowded coffee shop in central Moscow. One of his aides showed up first, and then twenty minutes later Trepashkin arrived in the company of his bodyguard of sorts, a muscular young man with a crewcut and an opaque stare.

    Trepashkin, while short, was powerfully built – a testament to his lifelong practice of a variety of martial arts – and still very handsome at 51. His most arresting feature, though, was a perpetual amused grin. It gave him an aura of instant likability, friendliness, although I could imagine that anyone who sat across an interrogation table from him back in his KGB days might have found it unnerving.

    For a few minutes, we chatted about everyday things – the unusually cold weather in Moscow just then, the changes I’d noticed since my last visit – and I sensed Trepashkin was trying to figure me out, deciding how much to say.

    Then he began to tell me about his career at the KGB. He’d spent most of his years as a criminal investigator who specialized in antiques smuggling. He was, in those days, an absolute loyalist to the Soviet state – and most especially the KGB. Trepashkin was such a dedicated Soviet that he even supported a group that attempted to thwart the ascent of Boris Yeltsin in favor of preserving the Soviet system.

    I could see that this was going to be the end of the Soviet Union, Trepashkin explained in the coffee shop. But even more than that, what would happen to the KGB, to all of us who had made it our lives? I saw only disaster coming.

    And that disaster came. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Russia plunged into economic and social chaos. One particularly destructive aspect of that chaos stemmed from the vast legions of Russian KGB officers who suddenly entered the private sector. Some went into business for themselves or joined on with the mafiyas they had once been detailed to combat. Still others signed on as “advisers” or muscle for the new oligarchs or the old Communist Party bosses who were frantically grabbing up anything of value in Russia, even as they paid obeisance to the “democratic reforms” of President Boris Yeltsin.

    Of all this, Trepashkin had an intimate view. Kept on with the FSB, the Russian successor the the KGB, the investigator found it increasingly difficult to differentiate criminality from governmental policy.

    In case after case, he said, there was this blending. You would find mafiyas working with terrorist groups, but then the trail would lead to a business group or maybe to a state ministry. So then, was this still a criminal case, or some kind of officially sanctioned black operation? And just what did ‘officially sanctioned’ actually mean anymore, because who was really in charge?

    Finally, in the summer of 01995, Mikhail Trepashkin began work on a case that would change him forever, one that placed him on a collision course with the seniormost commanders of the FSB and, Trepashkin says, would lead at least one of them to plot his assassination. As with so many other incidents that exposed the malevolent rot in post-Soviet Russia, this one centered on events in the breakaway southern republic of Chechnya.

    By December 01995, rebels fighting for the independence of Chechnya had fought the Russian army to a bloody and humiliating stalemate after a full year of war. The Chechens’ success was not as simple as mere force of arms, however. Even during the Soviet era, Chechen mafiyas had controlled much of the Russian criminal underworld, so when Russian society itself became criminalized it played beautifully to the Chechen rebels’ advantage. For their steady supply of sophisticated weapons with which to fight the Russian army, the rebels often had only to turn to corrupt Russian army officers who had access to such weaponry, with the funds for such “purchases” supplied by the Chechen crime syndicates operating throughout the nation.

    Just how high up did this cozy arrangement go? Mikhail Trepashkin got his answer on the night of December 1, when a team of FSB officers stormed a Moscow branch of Bank Soldi with guns drawn.

    The raid that night was the culmination of an elaborate sting operation, one that Trepashkin had helped supervise, designed to finally bring down a notorious bank-extortion team linked to a Chechen rebel leader named Salman Raduyev> It was a huge success: Caught up in the Soldi dragnet were some two dozen conspirators, including two FSB officers and a Russian-military general.

    But inside the bank, the FSB men found something else. To ensure they weren’t walking into a trap, the conspirators had planted electronic bugs throughout the building, and those were linked to an eavesdropping van parked outside. While their precautions obviously needed some fine-tuning, it begged the question of how the gang got their hands on bugging equipment.

    All these sorts of devices have serial numbers, Trepashkin explained in the Moscow coffee shop, and so we traced the numbers back. We discovered that it had all come from either the FSB or the Ministry of Defense.

    The implication of this was staggering, for access to such equipment was severely restricted. It suggested that high-ranking security and military officers had colluded not only with a criminal gang but with one whose express purpose was to raise funds for a war against Russia. By the standards of any country, that wasn’t just corruption, it was treason.

    Yet no sooner had Trepashkin started down that investigative trail than he was removed from the Bank Soldi case by Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB’s internal-security department. What’s more, he says, no charges were brought against any of the Russian officers implicated, and nearly all of those caught in the initial dragnet were soon quietly released. Instead, Patrushev ordered an investigation of Trepashkin. That investigation lasted nearly two years, at the end of which Trepashkin had reached his personal breaking point. In May 01997, he wrote an open letter to President Yeltsin detailing his involvement in the case and charging much of the senior FSB leadership with a host of crimes, including forming alliances with mafiyas and even recruiting their members into FSB ranks.

    I thought that if the president knew what was happening, Trepashkin said, then he would do something about it. This was a mistake on my part.

    Indeed. Boris Yeltsin, it turned out, was fabulously corrupt himself, and the letter alerted the FSB that they now had a serious malcontent on their hands. The very next month, Trepashkin resigned from the FSB, burn out, he says, but the harassment he’d been subjected to. But that didn’t mean Trepashkin was going to go quietly into the night. That summer he brought a lawsuit against the FSB leadership and began filing complaints that extended all the way to the FSB director himself. It was as if, even at this late date, the investigator imagined that the honor of the Kontora (Bureau) could still be redeemed, that some as yet invisible reformer might step forward. Instead, his persistence apparently convinced some senior FSB officials that it was time for a permanent solution to their Trepashkin problem. One of the first people they turned to was Alexander Litvinenko.

    On paper, Litvinenko looked just the man for the job. Having just returned to Moscow from a stint on the brutal Chechen battlefield as a counterterrorism operative, he had been transferred into a new and highly secretive of the FSB called the Office for the Analysis of Criminal Organizations, or URPO. While Litvinenko didn’t know it at the time, it seemed the URPO had been formed to serve as a death squad. As reported in the book Death of a Dissident, by Alex Goldfarb and Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, Litvinenko learned of this when he was summoned by the URPO commander in October 01997. There is this guy, Mikhail Trepashkin, the commander allegedly told Litvinenko. He is your new object. Go get his file and make yourself familiar with it.

    When he did, Litvinenko learned of the criminal investigator’s involvement with the Bank Solid case, as well as his lawsuit against the FSB leadership; it left him puzzled as to just what he was supposed to do with Trepashkin.

    Well, it’s a delicate situation, Litvinenko quoted his commander as saying. You know, he is taking the director to court and giving interviews. We should shut him up, director’s personal request.

    Shortly after, Litvinenko claimed his target list expanded to include Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch and Kremlin insider whom apparently someone powerful now wanted dead. Litvinenko stalled for a time, making continual excuses for his inability to carry out the assassination orders.

    According to Trepashkin, at least two attempts were made on his life during this period: a failed ambush on a deserted stretch of Moscow highway, and a rooftop sniper who couldn’t get off a clean shot. On other occasions, he says, he was tipped off by friends still in the Kontora.

    In November, the alleged FSB plot against Trepashkin and Berezovsky was exposed in dramatic fashion when Litvinenko and four of his URPO colleagues appeared at a Moscow news conference to detail the kill orders they’d been given. Also in attendance was Mikhail Trepashkin.

    And there, somewhat anticlimactically, the matter seemed to end. Litvinenko, the ringleader of the dissident officers, was summarily dismissed but otherwise suffered no immediate retribution. As for Trepashkin, after improbably winning his lawsuit against the FSB, he married for a second time and settled into his new job with the Russian tax police, determined, he says, to quietly serve out his term until he was eligible for retirement.

    But then, in September 01999, the apartment-building bombings would shake Russia’s political foundations to their core. Those attacks would also propel Trepashkin and Litvinenko back into the shadow world, this time with a common purpose.

    Amid the near hysteria that gripped Moscow after the Guryanova Street bombing, early on the morning of September 13, 01999, authorities were called to check on reports of suspicious activity at an apartment building on the city‘s southern outskirts. Finding nothing untoward, security personnel completed their search of 6/3 Kashirskoye at about 2 A.M. and left. At 5:03 A.M>, the nine-story building was collapsed by a massive bomb, leaving 121 civilians dead.

    Three days later, the target was an apartment building in Volgodonsk, a city south of Moscow. This time it was a truck bomb, and it left another seventeen dead.

    In the Moscow coffee shop, Trepashkin grew uncharacteristically somber, staring into the distance for a long moment.

    It just seemed incredible, he said finally. That was my first thought. The country is in an uproar, vigilantes are stopping strangers on the streets, there are police roadblocks everywhere. So how is it possible that these bombers are moving about so freely, that they have all this time to set up and carry out these sophisticated bombings? It seemed impossible.

    Another aspect that Trepashkin had a problem with was the question of motive.

    Usually, this is quite easy to find, he explained, it is money or hatred or jealousy, but for these bombings, what was the Chechens’ motive? Very few people thought about this.

    On one level, this was perhaps understandable. Antipathy for Chechens is deeply ingrained into Russian society, and it had grown much worse during their secessionist war in the ’90s. Unspeakable atrocities were committed by both sides in that conflict, and the Chechen rebels had shown no compunction against taking their fight into Russia proper or targeting civilians. Except that war had ended in 01997, with Boris Yeltsin signing a peace agreement recognizing Chechnya’s autonomy.

    So why? Trepashkin continued. Why would the Chechens want to provoke the Russian government when they already had everything they had fought for?

    And there was something else that gave the former criminal investigator pause: the composition of the new Russian government.

    In early August 01999, just weeks before the first bombing on Buynaksk, President Yeltsin had appointed his third prime minister in less than three months. He was a slight, humorless main, virtually unknown to the Russian public, named Vladimir Putin.

    The chief reason he was so little known was that, until a few years earlier, Putin had been just one more midlevel KGB/FSB officer toiling away in obscurity. In 01996, Putin was given a position in the presidential-property-management department, a crucial office in the Yeltsin patronage machine that gave Putin leverage to grant or withhold favors to Kremlin insiders. He apparently put his time there to good use; over the next three years, Putin was promoted to deputy chief of the presidential staff, then to director of the FSB, and now to prime minister.

    But though Putin was still obscure to the general public in September 01999, Mikhail Trepashkin already had a pretty good sense of the man. Putin had been the FSB director at the time the URPO scandal went public and had personally dismissed Alexander Litvinenko for provoking it. I fired Litvinenko, he had told a reporter, because FSB officers shouldn’t hold press conferences… and they shouldn’t make internal scandals public.

    But equally alarming to Trepashkin was who had been chosen to be Putin’s successor as FSB director, Nikolai Patrushev. As head of the FSB internal-security department, it was Patrushev who had removed Trepashkin from the Bank Soldi case and who was now among those government officials most vehemently claiming a Chechen connection to the apartment-building bombings.

    So what you saw was this dynamic building, Trepashkin said, and it was the government promoting it. ‘The Chechens are behind this, so now we must take care of the Chechens’.

    But then something very strange happened. It happened in the sleepy provincial city of Ryazan, some 120 miles southeast of Moscow.

    Amid the state of hypervigilance that had seized the nation, several residents of 14/16 Novosyolov Street in Ryazan took notice when a white Zhiguli sedan pulled up to park beside their apartment building on the evening of September 22. They became downright panicked when they observed two men removing several large sacks from the car’s trunk and carrying them into the basement before speeding away. Residents called the police.

    Discovered in the basement were three 110-pound white sacks wired to a detonator and explosive timer. As police quickly evacuated the building, the local FSB explosives expert was called in to defuse the detonator; he determined that the sacks contained RDX, a explosive powerful enough to have brought the entire apartment building down. IN the meantime, roadblocks were established on all roads out of Ryazan, and a massive manhunt for the Zhiguli and its occupants got underway.

    By the following afternoon, word of the incident in Ryazan had spread across Russia. Prime Minister Putin congratulated the residents on their vigilance, while the interior minister lauded recent improvements by the security forces, such as the foiling of the attempt to blowup the apartment building in Ryazan.

    There the matter may well have ended, except that same night two of the suspects in Ryazan were apprehended. To the local authorities’ astonishment, both produced FSB identification cards. A short time later, a call came down from FSB headquarters in Moscow that the two were to be released.

    The following morning, FSB director Patrushev appeared on television to report a wholly new version of events in Ryazan. Rather than an aborted terrorist attack, he explained, the incident at 14/16 Novosyolov Street had actually been an FSB “training exercise” to test the public’s alertness. Further, he said, the sacks in the basement had contained not explosives, but rather common household sugar.

    Contradictions in the FSB’s account were manifold. How to reconcile FSB headquarters’ sacks-of-sugar claim with the local FSB’s chemical analysis that had found RDX? If this truly had been a training exercise, how was it that the local FSB branch wasn’t informed ahead of time, or that Patrushev himself didn’t see fit to make mention of it for a day and a half after the terrorist alert was raised? For that matter, why did the apartment-building-bombing spree suddenly stop after Ryazan? If the attacks were truly the handiwork of Chechen terrorists, surely the public-relations black eye the FSB had received over the Ryazan affair would spur them to carry out more.

    But the time for such questions had already passed. Even as Prime Minister Putin gave his speech on the night of September 23 praising the residents of Ryazan for their vigilance, Russian warplanes began launching massive air strikes on Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Within a few more days, Russian armored battalions that had been massed on the border for months crossed into Chechnya, marking the start of the Second Chechen War.

    Events moved very quickly after that. On New Year’s Eve 01999, Boris Yeltsin stunned the nation by announcing that he was stepping down from the presidency effective immediately, which made Vladimir Putin acting president until new elections could be held. And instead of holding them sometime in the summer, as originally scheduled, those elections would now occur in just ten weeks’ time, leaving Putin’s many competitors for the position little time to prepare.

    In a presidential poll taken in August 01999, Putin had garnered less than 2 percent support. By March 02000, however, riding a wave of popularity for his total-war policy in Chechnya, he swept into office with 53 percent of the vote. The reign of Vladimir Putin had begun, and Russia would never be the same.

    For our next meeting, Trepashkin invited me into his apartment. I was a bit surprised by this – I’d been told that, for security reasons, Trepashkin rarely brought visitors to his home – but I guess he figured all his enemies knew where he lived, anyway.

    It was a pleasant enough place, if a bit on the spartan side, on the ground floor of a high-rise tower surrounded by other high-rise towers in southern Moscow. Trepashkin gave me a quick tour, and I noticed that the only space with even a hint of clutter was the tiny, paper-filled room – a converted walk-in closet, really – he used as his office. One of his daughters was home, and she brought us tea as we settled in the sitting room.

    With a vaguely embarrassed smile, Trepashkin offered that there was actually another reason he rarely had work-related meetings at his home: his wife. She wants me to stop all this political stuff, but since she is away this morning… His smile eased away. Well, it’s because of the raids. You know, they came charging in here – he waved toward the front door – with their guns, shouting orders; the children were terrified. It really affected my wife, and she is always worried it will happen again.

    The first of those raids had occurred in January 02002. Late one night, a squad of FSB agents burst in and proceeded to take the apartment apart. Trepashkin maintains they found nothing but instead planted enough evidence – some classified documents from the FSB archives, a handful of bullets – to enable prosecutors to hang three “pending” charges over his head.

    It was their way of putting me on notice, he explained, of letting me know they would come after me if I didn’t straighten up.

    Trepashkin had a good idea of what had sparked the FSB’s attention: Just days before the raid, he had started getting telephone calls from the man regarded by the Putin regime as one of Russia’s greatest traitors, Alexander Litvinenko.

    Lieutenant Colonel Litvinenko’s fall from grace had been swift. After his 01998 press conference alleging the URPO assassination plots, he’d spent nine months in prison on an “abuse of authority” charge and had then fled Russia as prosecutors prepared to move against him again. With the help of the now exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky, Litvinenko and his family settled in England, where he joined forces with Berezovsky to expose to the world what they claimed were the crimes of the Putin regime. A primary focus of that campaign was getting to the truth of the apartment-building bombings.

    So this is why he was calling, Trepashkin explained. Litvinenko couldn’t come back to Russia, obviously, so they needed someone here to help with the investigation.

    Easier said than done, for by January 02002, Russia had become a very different place. In the two years since Putin had been elected president, the once-thriving independent media had all but disappeared, while the political opposition was being steadily marginalized to the point of insignificance.

    One indication of this chilling effect was the revisions performed on the shakiest aspect of the government’s bombing story, the FSB “training exercise” in Ryazan. By 02002 the Ryazan FSB commander who had overseen the manhunt for “the terrorists” now supported the training-exercise explanation. The local FSB explosives expert who had insisted before television cameras that the Ryazan sacks contained explosives suddenly went silent on the whole matter and disappeared from sight. Even some of the residents of 14/16 Novosyolov Street who had appeared in a television documentary six months after the incident to angrily deride the FSB’s account and insist the bomb was real now refused to talk with anyone beyond allowing that perhaps they’d been mistaken after all.

    I told Litvinenko that the only way I could become involved was in some kind of official capacity, Trepashkin explained in his sitting room. If I just went out on my own, the authorities would move against me immediately.

    That official capacity was fashioned at a meeting held in Boris Berezovsky’s London office in early March 02002. one of those in attendance, a Russian member of Parliament named Sergei Yushenkov, would organize a blue-ribbon committee of inquiry into the bombings and make Trepashkin one of his investigators. Another attendee was Tatiana Morozova, a 31-year-old Russian émigré living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Morozova’s mother had been killed in the Guryanova Street bla

  2. It is important that people be realistic about Russia. More than a year ago, some bloggers (stuck in 1980s thinking) could not understand a Russia that is not a friend, but not a great power.

  3. Anderson also wrote a heck of a book, “The Man Who Tried to Save the World: The Dangerous Life and Mysterious Disappearance of an American Hero” about the innovative and star-crossed life of an aid worker with a brilliance for rethinking aid’s purpose and its tactics, who died under very mysterious circumstances in the craziness of Chechnya’s first war.

    Fred Cuny’s genius is sorely missed today, as he likely would have been a key player in developing a better Sys-Admin approach for our military abroad.

  4. I did not know about Fredy Cuny. As Wikipedia describes him, he “was an American disaster relief specialist who was active in many humanitarian projects around the world from 1969 until his forced disappearance in Chechnya in 1995” [1].

    Thank you for this interesting — and sad — tale.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Cuny

  5. Хошеться, чтобы люди в России и странах бывшего СНГ понимали историю этой страны и её нынешнюю ситуацию. Просто понимали и отвечали за свою собственную жизнь и поступки. Я не верю, что строй в России можно изменить. Так будет до конца. Просто хорошо, чтобы как можно больше людей понимало что происходит.

  6. Natalia,

    Google translate gives the English version of your comment as follows:

    Hoshetsya that people in Russia and the CIS states to understand the history of this country and its current situation. Just understand and be responsible for their own lives and actions. I do not believe that the system in Russia can be changed. So it will be until the end. Just good to as many people understood what was happening.

    I situation in Russia is bleak. The role of the National Bolsheviks as a source of opposition to Putin is almost as troubling as Putin himself is. I hope the people of Russia can see the truth now, and be free sometime in the future.

    [1] http://www.tdaxp.com/archive/2009/02/02/putin-and-the-nazis.html

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