David Satter is a US journalist who spent decades covering Russian politics before he was expelled from the country after claiming that President Putin and the FSB may have been involved with the deadly Russia apartment bombings in 1999.
We talked to Satter about the bombings at PutinCon, a summit organized by the Human Rights Foundation that gathered together some of Putin’s biggest critics. Following is a transcript of the video.
David Satter: You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to see what was going on. And in particular, you had to be willfully ignorant if you didn’t see the implications of the Ryazan incident.
David Satter is a US journalist and expert on Russian politics. He was expelled from Russia after claiming that Putin and the FSB were behind the apartment bombings
Satter: In the summer of 1999 the approval rating of former President Yeltsin was 2%. There appeared to be no chance whatever that Putin, who was designated by Yeltsin as his successor could possibly become the next Russian president. The apartment bombings changed everything. It was said after those buildings went up that now we’re living in a completely different country.
More than 200 people were killed in the September bombings. Russia blamed Chechen militants, triggering the second Chechen War.
Satter: Putin came forward as the savior of the country. He was put in charge of a war in Chechnya. The bombings were blamed on Chechens without any evidence whatsoever, and as a result of the successful prosecution of that war, against all odds he was elected the next Russian president. The apartment bombings appear to be the keystone of a plot to confuse Russian public opinion, to create terror, to distract the Russian public, to redirect their anger away from the corruption that had flourished under Yeltsin, and toward the Chechens who had had for a number of years a semi-independent government in Chechnya and in that way create the conditions for the Russian people to vote in what they absolutely consciously did not want, which was a successor to Yeltsin who would protect Yeltsin.
There was an enormous amount of material in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta which pointed to the possibility and in fact to the likelihood that the authorities themselves blew up those buildings. At the same time a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of an apartment building in Ryazan, which is a city southeast of Moscow. And I went to Ryazan after the bomb was discovered and diffused to talk to local residents and it was clear from those conversations that what took place was a genuine attempt to blow up a fifth building. The authorities said that this was only a training exercise, but it was nothing of the kind.
And what was most important was that three persons were arrested for putting a bomb in a building in Ryazan. They turned out to be not Chechens, not terrorists in the usual sense, but rather agents of the Federal Securities Service which is the FSB.
I asked for documents from the CIA from the FBI, from the directorate of national intelligence from the state department. I got very, very little that was of any use. But I did get a few documents from the state department which indicated that their sources of information were telling them that the apartment bombings were extremely suspicious. You had to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to see what was going on. And in particular you had to be willfully ignorant if you didn’t see the implications of the Ryazan incident in which three FSB agents were arrested for putting a fifth bomb in a building, even though the bomb didn’t go off it was a live bomb. What was it doing in the basement of an apartment building?
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