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Moscow behind bombings - tycoon

Berezovsky says Putin knew of the campaign
Berezovsky says Putin knew of the campaign  

LONDON, England -- Media tycoon Boris Berezovsky says he will ask Europe's human rights guardian to investigate allegations that Russia's secret service carried out a series of deadly apartment bombings.

The former Kremlin insider who fell from grace after President Vladimir Putin's election said the 1999 attacks, which killed more than 300 people, "had no equivalent or precedent in Russia."

Berezovsky told a news conference in London on Tuesday that Putin was aware of the attacks. He said his information was from former FSB intelligence agents, investigative journalists and explosives experts.

The evidence has been compiled to form the basis of a documentary and a book, which Berezovsky unveiled to journalists.

Sergei Yushenkov, who with Berezovsky chairs the political movement Liberal Russia, said the group would ask the Council of Europe to investigate the explosions.

Berezovsky said the investigation should look at the actions of Putin, who headed the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet KGB, until August 1999. At the time of the bombings Putin was prime minister.

He said Putin "knew that such things were taking place ... Either he could have prevented a terrorist attack and didn't do it, or he was passive."

Berezovsky, once an adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin and a key aide in coordinating victory for Putin in the 2000 presidential elections, is now based in London, evading corruption charges he says are politically motivated. In January, his independent TV6 television company was closed down.

The 1999 explosions were used by the Russian government to justify a new war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

Berezovsky showed excepts from "Assassination of Russia," a French-made film that links the bombing on September 4, 9 and 13, 1999 in Moscow with another attack on September 16, 1999 in Volgodonsk, and with an attempted bombing in Ryazan on September 22, 1999.

The film and a book -- "Blowing up Russia" -- claim the Ryazan incident was a failed attack by the FSB.

Berezovsky and his team produced date-and-time-stamped pictures which they said showed the detonator found at the Ryazan site was real.

They said local police experts had confirmed that traces of real explosive were also found.

Three bombs in Moscow and one in Volgodonsk (above) killed 300 people
Three bombs in Moscow and one in Volgodonsk (above) killed 300 people  

Nikita Chekulin, an ex-FSB member and ex-acting director of the Russian Conversion Explosives Centre, told the news conference he also had documentary evidence showing large amounts of explosives withdrawn from military bases by Russian authorities during 1999 and 2000.

Berezovsky said: "Ever since Putin came to power, people have been asking: Is he really a democratic president of Russia or simply an old-style dictator putting on a show for the West?

"Why does he continue to block investigations into the deadliest terrorist attacks in our history? I am calling for an open and independent investigation."

He added: "Two and a half years later, no one can say the people who did it are in jail, nor can we really say who did it."

The Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the FSB on Tuesday as saying Berezovsky's allegations were "groundless and lacking in common sense."

Russian officials said they were considering asking Interpol to issue a warrant for the tycoon on charges of financing rebels in Chechnya.

Pavel Barkovsky, deputy head of the Russian Prosecutor General's special investigations department, was quoted by the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies as saying that prosecutors could soon issue an international arrest warrant for Berezovsky if they can find evidence to back up their claims.


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